Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Oct 2013 15:10 UTC

Led by Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects group, Project Ara is developing a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. 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.


The design for Project Ara consists of what we call an endoskeleton (endo) and modules. The endo is the structural frame that holds all the modules in place. A module can be anything, from a new application processor to a new display or keyboard, an extra battery, a pulse oximeter - or something not yet thought of!

This could be the biggest innovation in smartphones since, well, the first smartphones appeared on the market. I am incredibly excited about this.

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RE: Comment by shmerl
by Alfman on Tue 29th Oct 2013 18:58 UTC in reply to "Comment by shmerl"
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Making the hardware open is a neat idea, however to be honest I'm more interested in having a fully open software stack. I think artificial software restrictions have done more to discourage independent innovation than the lack of hardware configurations.

I expect the modular hardware would be limited to a niche market, but as long as it runs a fully open software stack, then I'm not complaining.

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RE[2]: Comment by shmerl
by shmerl on Tue 29th Oct 2013 19:08 in reply to "RE: Comment by shmerl"
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Well, fully open stack depends on hardware to be open (for open drivers), as in providing hardware documentation which enables writing drivers for it. Otherwise you'll end up with closed blobs and Android-like mess which limits the choice of operating systems you can make for it (which in turn limits the rest of the software stack). Unless of course you can reverse engineer all the closed components.

Edited 2013-10-29 19:15 UTC

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RE[3]: Comment by shmerl
by Alfman on Tue 29th Oct 2013 21:11 in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by shmerl"
Alfman Member since:


Oh I hear you. And even if you can reverse engineer all the drivers/hardware for your device, then what? After all that hard work you will likely end up on your own little software island because no one else can actually run your code unless they go out of their way to buy the exact same device as you. And even if you accept this limitation, there's no guarantee the hardware will even be available to buy once your software becomes useful.

I did some pretty awesome things with a tiny buffalo linkstation NAS drive, creating a very nice little VOIP PBX for my house. I was very happy with it, but when Buffalo obsoleted the product and released a new model, I had to throw away most of my earlier work and restart from the ground up. I decided then and there that I wouldn't ever become dependent upon proprietary ARM hardware again until this got sorted out. Of course we now know that it didn't get sorted out and it may never get sorted out because manufacturers would rather we use their proprietary software anyways.

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