@dougwithau, that was exactly my initial thought. How would this be different from a so-called "reference design" chip companies and platform vendors like Microsoft have been offering for decades?
Well, as a starter, hot swappable "module" approach might appeal to hobbyists.
But then, it's hard to imagine that this is being pitched at hardware suppliers (ODMs) who have never made smartphones before but want to make a ton of it. For that, companies like MediaTek, Spreadtrum and others already offer a very comprehensive reference design (or what they call "turnkey systems.")
One thing is clear, though. The fact Google is experimenting with this modular approach on the Android smartphone platform goes to show how mature smartphones have become as a consumer product.
Agreed, this may be something down the line, but for now its more of a curiosity, more of an interesting little investment from Google. They are a big enough company they can spread out and try different things with minimal risk. I wouldn't place too much of an emphasis on this latest intiiative from Google.
Microsoft and Intel set down the specification for hardware for years. Companies like Dell, Lenovo and all the other PC clone makers were building and packaging reference designs. Not to say that is not a difficult and complex buisness to manage.
This sounds very similar. Here are the starting building blocks for Android prototypes. Now that most of the R and D is done, package it up and sell it cheap. That spreads the Android app store, and keeps the customer happy. No one wants a black eye in the market because new Android software is running on an underpowered, incompatible hardware platform.
I really can't see this going anywhere. Google is great about trying out interesting concepts and seeing where they go. I wouldn't put any weight in their investment (remember google wave? Feedburner?).
It is a cool idea and a fun concept, but the "cons" column is so much longer than the "pros" column that it is hard to even fathom this concept going into production.
If this ever takes off, the real upside may not be the modularity itself, as that'll have such a negative impact on efficiency and form factor and the user interface. But assuming they get it into a somewhat tolerable range, the really interesting part will be analyzing the which modules get developed, which modules get used the most, and which ones don't really get used all that much.
From that, the ultimate efficienty and usable smartphone can be developed based on what users really do or choose to have and use on their device. From features to form factor. This analysis really fits with Google's 'analyze this' approach.