Remember that ambitious modular smartphone platform project that Motorola announced a little over a month ago? Despite the backing from Motorola and now a 3D Printing hardware manufacturing partner, many have written off Project Ara as technically improbable and realistically impossible. Well, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to downplay this potential game-changer.
According to Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, Project Ara is very much real. So real, in fact, that Dennis stated in an interview with YouTuber Marques Brownlee that a working prototype is just around the corner. While not much was revealed about the device will function, he reiterated the goals of the project:
There is a prototype, and it is pretty close. The idea is you have a skeleton that holds together a set of components, and the components slide in and out. If we have the interfaces and the protocols that enable the speaker to speak directly to the CPU, then this would all be possible.
While vague, this hints at an interface protocol in the MDK, which will be used to standardize all input directly interface with the device processor. Unfortunately, no such standardized protocol currently exists, so there are some large technical hurdles to be overcome. Furthermore, with modularity and standardized interfaces generally comes added bulk. And given recent hipster trends, an extra millimeter or a fruity logo can mean the difference between a device that is considered cool and one that is not.
In addition to the technical challenges, the rest of the increasingly disposable mobile technology industry may not be ready to adopt a user-upgradeable and user-serviceable alternative. This could potentially limit OEM and ODM adoption, as well as keep prices prohibitively high.
Finally, Dennis Woodside also briefly touched upon the success of Moto Maker for the Moto X, and the consumer demand for customizable devices. As such, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that if and when Ara comes to fruition, it will be launched through Moto Maker. As stated by Dennis:
Moto Maker was the beginning of a more exciting and longer term story, which is how do we involve consumers and give them more choice. Ara is much further out, but you can see how those two things tie together and how as we introduce new materials into Moto Maker we’re gonna pursue that theme across our product line going forward.
What we’d like to eventually get to is functionality within the device, and that’s where Project Ara and Moto Maker may converge.
What are your thoughts on Project Ara? Are you hopeful about its potential or are you too skeptical that its lofty goals will see fruition. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below, and also be sure to make your way over to the MDK Hacking and Discussion forum to get in on the MDK action.
The full interview can be found below, and it is definitely worth your watch if you have any interest in the future of Google-owned Motorola, its upcoming products, or Project Ara and customizable smartphones.