Earlier this month Patently Apple posted a report titled "Google's Game Changing 'Project Ara' Smartphone Dies on the Vine as just more Vaporware." Reuters reported that Google had plans to shelve the project that was supposed to debut in late 2015. Many had high hopes for the modular smartphone. Yet the news from Reuters that Google was shelving Project Ara was a little too simplistic. It's not that Google is shelving the project but rather that Regina Dugan who led Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group left the company to continue her work over at Facebook in April of this year. News is that the modular smartphone project is being adopted by the Building 8 team at Facebook that's now being led by Dugan.
A new report that surfaced earlier today sheds a little more light on the subject. To begin with, Facebook acquired California baed Nascent Objects earlier this week which just happens to be a modular electronics platform company manufacturing hardware devices such as cameras and mini computers by using software programs, 3D printers and the like. It has come up with various prototype products whose components can be replaced with ease.
Now Nascent Objects will join the Building 8 Project led by Dr. Regina E. Dugan. Nascent Objects founder and CEO Baback Elmieh worked for the Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group in the past as is the case with Dugan.
Dugan posted a note on her facebook page on Monday about Nascent Objects:
"Imagine designing, building and delivering a hardware product in just weeks. Instead of months, or even years. Nascent Objects, a 2016 FastCo Design 'Innovation by Design' finalist, has brought this closer to reality with their modular electronics platform. And they're joining Facebook to work with us in Building 8. Together, we hope to create hardware at a speed that's more like software."
Business Korea noted in their report that some experts that they've spoken to are saying that this acquisition of Nacent Objects may be an attempt at continuing the modular smartphone project over at Facebook.
With Facebook entering the world of VR headsets through Oculus, Facebook seems to have a hunger to get into the hardware space to eventually compete with Google, Amazon and Apple. A move into a delivering a new kind of smartphone could help Facebook enter tougher markets like China and India where pricing is brutal. A modular smartphone could appeal to those who want a cheap smartphone but would like add components when they could afford them. Its also a way to ramp up production to keep the components at a reasonable price. It's definitely a project to keep one eye on going forward.
In the blink of an eye, the little newcomer to the smartphone market in 2007 called the iPhone eventually went on to kill Motorola and Nokia, the giants of that industry. So a new idea has the power to disrupt a market and a modular smartphone may just have a chance of disrupting emerging markets like nothing that's gone before it.
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