Remember that Phonebloks idea I covered last month, in which someone proposed a LEGO-style creation system for smartphones, in which people could build their preferred phones out of just the parts they wanted? The consensus at the time was that it seemed clever and creative on the surface, but wasn’t entirely feasible as suggested.
But Motorola seems to have found something useful in the concept. It was apparently working on this idea before the Phonebloks people came along, but they certainly seem to have found some common ground. After taking a truck full of rooted smartphones and 3D printers to make-a-thons around the country to see what creative ideas makers could come up with, Motorola has announced its Project Ara to try to bring the benefits of open hardware to a wider audience.
Led by Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, Project Ara is developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.
Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones. To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it.
The Ara system will have a modular construction scheme similar to that proposed by Phonebloks, and indeed the blog post mentions that Motorola will be working with the Phonebloks community as the company develops it.
This is certainly an interesting development. The idea still has its detractors, but if anyone can figure out how to address the technical issues they bring up, it’ll be a big, experienced tech company like Motorola. And just as the original smartphones led to the development of tablets and e-readers, perhaps this could lead to similarly-modular larger hardware if it works out.
This might just be worth keeping an eye on.