Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) recently revealed its Project Ara under its Advanced Technology Projects (ATAP) team headed by Regina Dugan, former director of the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The primary objective of Project Ara is to revolutionize the smartphone industry by going modular. This means the ATAP team aims to develop a smartphone that can be assembled and customized into numerous configurations, and its target price is significantly cheaper. ATAP’s price target for the Project Ara modular smartphone is $50.
In an interview with Time, Paul Eremenko, the head of Project Ara said their goal is to replicate what Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) did with the Android operating system or other software to the hardware—that is to make hardware manufacturing open to numerous developer contrary to the current situation wherein the development of the smartphone is concentrated on a few big name manufacturers.
“The question was basically, could we do for hardware what Android and other platforms have done for software? Which means lower the barrier to entry to such a degree that you could have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of developers as opposed to just five or six big [manufacturers] that could participate in the hardware space,” said Eremenko.
According to Eremenko, their task is to make Project Ara modular smartphone commercially available within two years. His team explored the concept of modular smartphone in the fall of 2012, and started working on the project in April last year. He said, “Generally, time is not your friend. Innovation under time pressure is generally higher-quality innovation.”
Eremenko said the ATAP team is in the final stages of putting together a functioning prototype of the Project Ara modular smartphone. The device is expected to be ready in a few weeks. According to him, the commercial version of the smartphone will be available in the market in the first quarter of 2015.
In addition, Eremenko said, “We want not just to create something that’s custom, and not even just something that’s unique, but actually something that’s expressive so that people can use this as a canvas to tell a story. So that you can set your phone down at dinner on the table next to you and it becomes a topic of conversation for the first fifteen minutes of dinner.”
Google Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Project Ara receives support from “external performers” (individuals, universities, companies) such as NK Labs founded by Seth Newburg and Ara Knaian who are responsible in supervising the required electrical, mechanical, and software engineering to bring the modular smartphone into reality.
Eremenko said Newburg and Knaian as “absolute superstars in their field, creative, out-of-the-box, do-anything kind of guys.”