IN THE TECHNOLOGY GAME, if you snooze, you lose, and just weeks after we reported on Phonebloks, the concept of a phone based on upgradable modules, Motorola has adopted the idea.
Whereas Phonebloks was just an idea, Project Ara is an open source project based on a series of hackathons under the "Make With Moto" banner.
Phonebloks and Project Ara have joined forces and are working together to design a hardware framework based on third-party modules held together by an "endoskeleton".
The project is being led by the Motorola Advanced Technology and Projects group with contributions and consultation with the Phonebloks community. Motorola mentioned the possibility of prizes for developers when it put out a casting call for module designs, with an alpha version of the module developer's kit (MDK) pencilled in for sometime this winter.
Motorola outlined its aims for the project, saying, "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."
It's unclear what mobile operating system Motorola has in mind at this stage, though we can assume that Android is a likely candidate. At the moment, it's all about the hardware.
Motorola said, "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."
So will this be merely a niche effort or is it a potential mainstream product? That remains to be seen, of course, but it could be a geeky Raspberry Pi affair or, with the right design and marketing, become a desirable technology. Or indeed, a form of high technology Lego. Or all three. After the development stage, it'll all be down to the marketing. µ