I remember a discussion with a company which developed software for mobile devices back in 2008. The discussion was around the future of mobile devices where, like PCs, a user could choose hardware components and and could upgrade hardware components to keep up with software instead of throwing away the device every year, adding up to the huge pile of electronic waste that we are creating, thanks to short shelf life of mobile devices championed by Apple.
What we were discussing way back in 2008 became a reality in 2013 when Motorola announced its Project Ara. As most of you know it’s a ‘modular’ device concept where users will be able to change or upgrade core hardware components such as CPU, RAM, camera or what not.
Then came shocking story that Google was selling pride of America to Chinese company Lenovo. I think Google is selling it to Lenovo for the same reason IBM sold it’s PC unit to the same Chinese giant – to works closely with Chinese government and organizations to improve it’s relationship and foot print in the country.
The good part of that story was that Google got to keep the patents (the only reason why Google bought Motorola for that price as the Motorola was not ready to sell only the patents) as well as project Ara at Mountain View.
Google has already announced the first event around project Ara where they will start teaching people how to use it. Now the reports are floating that Google may start selling the ‘modular’ Ara smartphones for $50 by next year. What all hardware a user will get for $50 is unclear, but looking at the nature of the concept, you can just throw some more dollars to add more components.
I am not sure if the concept will become popular among average users who may or may not care about such a device, but power-users, developer and enthusiasts will definitely be the #1 target of the device and it may sell like hot cakes.
In the long run it may change the market dynamics and break the unibody Apple shell where even battery is locked out from user’s reach and popularize device which are user-upgradable. If I have to choose, I will definitely choose a device which can be upgraded over time unlike devices which become obsolete in 2 years just because you can’t even upgrade the RAM. Google’s approach with Ara is a complete U-turn from what Apple is trying to do with their devices.
The I/O is arriving and we will see if Google announces something more exciting about the project at the event as it’s focused on developers to start with.