On a cloudy day this May, in the dull fluorescent light of a
plain white Google conference room, Rafa Camargo, Richard Wooldridge and
Blaise Bertrand told CNET their plan to disrupt the phone market.
Ara, a Lego-like phone with modular parts,
would let buyers snap on a better camera, additional batteries or any
other creative hardware a developer might dream up. It was set to be the
first phone entirely designed by Google, the three men claimed.
Then the Ara project was abruptly shelved.
But now, all three of those men work for Building 8
— a secretive new division of Facebook. There, they’ve been joined by
an impressive list of heavy hitters that reads like a who’s who of the
tech world: Motorola, Tesla, Apple and Amazon, in addition to that
contingent of Google ex-pats.
So what, exactly, is this superteam of designers, engineers and
manufacturing experts working on? Nobody outside of Menlo Park knows for
sure, but the hires — and at least one under-the-radar acquisition — seem to indicate two things: it’s mobile, and it may be modular.
Whatever it turns out to be, building hardware at this scale
represents a major shift for Facebook. The company’s first attempt at
hardware — a 2013 joint venture with HTC that became known as the ” Facebook phone”
— was a fiasco, discounted to 99 cents mere weeks after its debut.
Since then, though, the company has doubled down, first with its $2
billion purchase of VR headset maker Oculus in 2014, and now with what
appears to be a far more ambitious hardware endeavor with Building 8.
Here’s the mission statement in full:
8 brings together world-class experts to develop and ship
groundbreaking products at the intersection of hardware, software, and
content. We have a clear mandate to ship products at scale. In
particular, seemingly impossible products that define new categories
that advance Facebook’s mission of connecting the world. The B8 team
will apply DARPA-style breakthrough development at the intersection of
ambitious science and product development. It will operate on
aggressive, fixed timelines, with extensive use of partnerships in
universities, small and large businesses.
is all about shipping hardware, it seems. And could “seemingly
impossible products” include an ambitious modular phone like Ara?
Remains to be seen, the succes of the product, but just guess it’s gonna hit the market like Boom!!! Have your say in the comment button.