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Google Announces a New Processor For Project Ara

timothy posted about a month ago | from the starting-from-not-quite-scratch dept.

Cellphones 36

rtoz writes Google has just announced a new processor for Project Ara. The mobile Rockchip SoC will function as an applications processor, without requiring a bridge chip. A prototype of the phone with the Rockchip CPU, will be available early next year. Via Google+ post, Project Ara team Head Paul Eremenko says "We view this Rockchip processor as a trailblazer for our vision of a modular architecture where the processor is a node on a network with a single, universal interface -- free from also serving as the network hub for all of the mobile device's peripherals." (Project Ara is Google's effort to create an extensible, modular cellphone; last month we mentioned a custom version of Linux being developed for the project, too.)

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Google seems kind of serious about this (4, Interesting)

swb (14022) | about a month ago | (#47736267)

I think the Ara concept is pretty interesting, even if it doesn't seem too practical relative to today's integrated handsets in terms of size.

It's nice to see Google kind of pushing the envelope on this, it sounds like it could (finally) lead to the kind of modularity that more seamlessly and easily bridges handhelds, laptops and desktops with a single device.

Re:Google seems kind of serious about this (5, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a month ago | (#47736443)

google is only serious about ad revenue. all else are 'toys' to their management and the management and their employees have the shortest attention span of any large company I've ever known. they EOL things in such a short time, the trust level is now zero, with them.

hardware? google? they can't even keep software (that used to be flagship grade) working with patches and updates. they just plain lose interest and move on to other things.

at this point, google is a lot of talk but they can't be trusted to support things long-term and that, to me, kills any interest in tech things they show us.

Re: Google seems kind of serious about this (1, Troll)

rickb928 (945187) | about a month ago | (#47737333)

If Ara is to Google as Android is to Google, I'm with that.

Re: Google seems kind of serious about this (1)

Redbehrend (3654433) | about a month ago | (#47738047)

Yea Google does nothing but ads, except the are the point or one of the main points on self driving cars, Ai, android, chrome, drones, robots, etc... But that's right they don't do anything but play...

Re: Google seems kind of serious about this (1)

billstewart (78916) | about a month ago | (#47738755)

The reason for self-driving cars is so they can drive you by the billboards that match your demographic profile and skip the ones that don't bid as much for display time.

Re: Google seems kind of serious about this (1)

Redbehrend (3654433) | about a month ago | (#47760159)

Lol I was waiting for the ads on your windshield statement

Re:Google seems kind of serious about this (2)

relisher (2955441) | about a month ago | (#47737583)

It's nice to see Google kind of pushing the envelope on this

If any of you RTFA, then you could tell that Google isn't (really) pushing the envelope on this. It's a budget application processor. Nothing new here. Move along.

Re:Google seems kind of serious about this (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a month ago | (#47740989)

the reason why it hadn't done on the scale before was that everything was -and is still- going to more integrated chip solution. it's cheaper and wiser to have the network stuff on the same piece of faber, to have the gpu on the same piece...display driver too preferably(there's really no point in cost design wise or power use wise to convert the data to some hdmi like format and convert it back to rgb 5 millimeters away).

the idea- of blockphone or whatever- has been floating around for as long as smartphones. it's just pretty hard to in a way that makes sense and is future proof in any way.

some kind of compromise I had been thinking about would be to have a "heart unit" that would just speak over the display in some hdmi like format(even if it's not ideal really). that heart unit would have a small battery and couple of notification leds, and you could place it in different shells or even insert it into your desk - and it would carry your data. the notification led could tell you of a missed phone call in case you didn't have it inserted when the call was made. the radio etc everything would be in the heart unit and the shells could provide additional radios, input mechanisms other than just touchscreen etc.

same goes for if you wanted to use it in a car entertainment system or whatever, all such devices would just be another shell - and the shells you could keep using when you upgrade the heart unit a year or two later, so if you spent 5000 bucks on an ivory shell you could still use the latest and greatest soc/heart unit five years later, with the latest radios, if you just could bare with the "old" screen(screens are already so good...).

What is it good for? (2)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about a month ago | (#47736389)

I've heard and read a lot of people say how this will let them keep their phone a longer time but to me that doesn't seem likely. Too many things need to be replaced as the phone ages. Seems to me much better suited to customization of the original purchase, much like build options on a car.

Re:What is it good for? (5, Interesting)

alvinrod (889928) | about a month ago | (#47736531)

I think it might help. There are a lot of people who end up with a broken screen, the battery going bad, or some other single-component issue that invariably end up getting a new phone simply because they can get a new phone with a contract extension. Being able to easily replace any of those single components easily, and I mean easily for the kind of people who are afraid to use a screwdriver and follow a simple guide online, is a big deal. Even when something doesn't break, a lot of times over half of the components in the phone are still perfectly fine for a user. Perhaps they're satisfied with the screen and CPU, but want a better camera and more storage.

I don't think this is going to be a popular platform with the carriers, simply because it does allow the option of continual incremental upgrades based on what the user needs rather than buying a subsidized device attached to an expensive contract.

It also evokes the idea of the ship of Theseus [wikipedia.org] . If it takes 5 years for a person to replace every module or component of their phone that they originally started with at what point did they get a a new phone? If the cost of doing that is less than the typical 24-month subsidized upgrade cycle that the major carriers offer, I can see this finding at least a market niche where it will thrive.

Re:What is it good for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737373)

You'll have to buy a new phone when your Ara phone gets stolen and all the non-operating system parts are sold on eBay.

Re:What is it good for? (1)

fred911 (83970) | about a month ago | (#47737501)

"I don't think this is going to be a popular platform with the carriers"

  Isn't it time for the POTS (and it's younger brother cellular) system to die? Stateside termination is more fragmented than Android. One of the largest stateside carries uses termination that's not compatible with the rest of the world, designed to control income and users, not to provide quality services to it's clients. Available termination devices are designed to increase income for providers, not to provide the cutting edge of technology.

  Project ARA is a big threat to the proprietary hold communication carriers have on the stateside voice communication market.

  Whereas Joe Sixpac doesn't know it, anyone with little
technical ability can have a dialup number without any service plan from ANY carrier.

  The separation between "data plans" and "phone plans" is ridiculous, but every carrier likes to make differentiations between the receiving device and the price they charge.

  At the very least, project ARA is being supported by a company that clearly discloses it's participation in the services it provides, provides clear notifications to it's users when it changes those terms, and is a strong enough player to take on the legislated inequities the current players in the communication market are benefiting from.

Re:What is it good for? (2)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about a month ago | (#47737517)

Isn't it time for the POTS (and it's younger brother cellular) system to die?

No. Ask anyone who was in Sandy. Those with POTS had phone service. Those who were IP based (however sophisticated) did not. For days and in some cases, weeks.

Re:What is it good for? (1)

fred911 (83970) | about a month ago | (#47737595)

Those communication lines weren't twisted pair to twisted pair. Termination, possibly. Guaranteed, those lines weren't passed over analogue copper. your response while valid, is equal to the FCC license requiring the ability to copy morse code without the requirement to have any knowledge of how analogue to digital conversion is accomplished, nor oscillated.

  The fact that IP based communication failed during the aforementioned emergency was only due to the carriers terminations services. It's a given the long haul was packetized.

Re:What is it good for? (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about a month ago | (#47738393)

The POTS were live and the IP down because POTS are powered by the local exchange while IP bases equivalents are unpowered except in the customer's home.

While it is true that some areas with POTS still failed (Battery Park), most were ok.

Telco response to this is they are considering incrasing the size of the standard backup battery to an amount that still does not even cover one day of outtage. But why should they care when they have for all intents become cable companies?

Re:What is it good for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47743015)

Microsoft answered this already.
Replace more than three items and it is a different device

Re:What is it good for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736541)

You bring up a good point, but I still see Ara-like phones as useful. It mainly saves the cost of rebuying the necessary but probably-not-what-broke components, like memory. In fact, unintegrated memory is probably the largest boon I see in this. You can finally pull out your storage when you get a new phone or save ~$30 by not needing to re-purchase RAM. It might also be easier than it is currently to fix broken screens (most of what breaks anyway) or upgrade your unbroken device to a higher density when it comes out.

Re:What is it good for? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736611)

Well, the *useful* hardware improvements of todays smartphones are slowing down, as the PC did a few years back. So the length of time you can keep your phone hardware and not be obsolete increases. This Ara project seems a good way to buy something fancy today and spring for that solid-state battery that will come out in 18 months, or improve your camera with this shiny new micro lens optical zoom technology when it will be available, but keep expenses low. Plus, if you have a resale value on any component you want to replace.

But the real advantage is the gamification of smartphone shopping:
1. Buy low-level Ara phone.
2. ???
3. Profit
4. Upgrade phone.
5. ???
6. Faster profit because of upgraded phone.
7. Repeat from 4 until level 100 and then wait for the next expansion.

Sounds like... (1)

VernonNemitz (581327) | about a month ago | (#47736413)

Sounds like the start of making each phone module into a nano-computer. Each nano-computer controls only its own module, running a nano-OS. The nano-OS would only need two things: a way to plug in a driver for the particular hardware of the module, and a communications program so all the modules can be coordinated. One particular module would have, as its "driver", the coordination program, producing the overall result with which the end-user interacts.

Project going nowhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736421)

You want XYZ, you choose a phone that has XYZ, you don't assemble the bits from a generic compromise kit of parts.

Also one of those letters will be size, and Ara can't offer efficient use of space.

Re:Project going nowhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736449)

See also Modu, the failed modular phone that couldn't find a market:
http://www.cnet.com/news/modu-1-modular-phone-hits-uk-touchscreen-modu-t-to-come-android-modu-like/

Really, nobody wants this, lots of the integration is done inside the silicon, and the connectors between modules are unwanted overhead. Quit this and move on to getting Android onto Desktop instead of that Chrome garbage.

Re:Project going nowhere (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736455)

Yeah like how the desktop PC industry totally failed because no one wanted an open module architecture.

CUZ no one wants that, they just want their disposable apple bricks.

Re:Project going nowhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736555)

This isn't 1990's, and size does matter, especially with handsets. The PC market is being killed by tablets and phones and its updatability isn't winning its market back from tablets and phones.

Nobody wants this, they didn't want it when it was MODU, they don't want it now. If they want XYZ they just buy XYZ. This project can't deliver them XYZ, it can deliver X+Y+Z+ extra thickness + reduced reliability + reduced testing + extra dimensions + generic styling + extra cost.

Even simple geometry should tell them, the customer can't add a 1x1 module to a 3x6 phone unless the 3x6 phone had wasted space of 1x1, or unless it becomes a 4x6 phone. If it becomes a 4x6 phone, what do they do to fill the extra space? Floppy disk blanking plates? Seriously? What?

It's one of these throwaway ideas that somebody is not throwing away.

Re: Project going nowhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736779)

Actually, people do want this. You might not be in the group that does, and that's ok. However, to say that nobody wants it is clearly incorrect.

Besides, just because it is hard to see all of the applications of any technology in advance doesn't mean there isn't a valid use or purpose for it. Saying it isn't useful is like saying no one will need more than 640kb of ram; saying it doesn't make it true.

Office? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736467)

It must run Office or it is a non-starter.

From The Truth!

far behind of being serious (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736471)

Google should improve android itself instead of this kind of stupid things ! I know project Ara is good idea . But android itself far behind of being something serious .

Re:far behind of being serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736643)

lulz wut?

Far behind what exactly? Lessee crapberry? nope iOS? nope wince? nope linux? oh a jokester Symbian? lulz

Re: far behind of being serious (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736909)

Far behind being something I can trust. I want a minion phone that will keep my secrets, not try to upsell me every chance it can. I once thought smart phones were cool but they are tiring to use because of privacy concerns (should I put that data on the phone? will it be encrypted and safe? will it be sent to the cloud? will it be used against me?). I quit using my phone's features because I just don't have faith in it to look after my best interests. No, I don't have a dark past or any deep secrets, just an expectation of privacy.

Re:far behind of being serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47738991)

Just look at Android Update itself , I have phone , which 1 year old , 768MB RAM, perfectly capable of running kitkat ! but guess what ? I can't Update and It will stuck 4.1 forever. Why do I want update hardware when I cant update OS itself ?? Talking about updating hardware when most of android phone in real world ( beside of nexus ) dont get even 2 year support !

Er, they can do both? (1)

brunes69 (86786) | about a month ago | (#47737559)

You realize Google employs hundreds of thousands of people right? The Android teams and the Ara teams have nothing to do with one another. Just because Ara team gets resource X does not mean that Android team is losing resource X, that is not how corporate budgets work.

Re:Er, they can do both? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47738965)

Do you realize company have something called BUDGET ?

I want phonebloks. (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a month ago | (#47736481)

This project is interesting but its not flexible enough.

TFV (1)

CurryCamel (2265886) | about a month ago | (#47736707)

TFA is a F:n video!

Neat for Embedded Systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736929)

Not sure how successful the phone will be but this technology could be useful for building custom embedded systems. Drivers and peripheral support are always a pain to deal with. Seems like this is one of the major things project Ara is dealing with.

Re: Neat for Embedded Systems (1)

mordjah (1088481) | about a month ago | (#47738059)

This.

Trusted Computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47738451)

Rockchip SoC = The first NSA approved SoC :D

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