This idea (Phonebloks) by Dave Hakkens is such a good idea. In a way it would be an almost perfect implementation of one of my grandest ideas for computing. I haven’t talked about the idea yet, but consider it the one-device-to-rule-them-all platform. Essentially it’s a core computing device that can be plugged in to various modules to furnish different computing platforms. The core might be a mobile phone while the various modules would expand it to other form factors (tablet, laptop, desktop).
PhoneBloks could actually provide the necessary platform to realize my idea. Need a larger screen? Plug in the tablet-size screen. Need a mouse and keyboard? Plug in to the laptop body. Need to process video? Swap out the processor for something more powerful (and mobile-unfriendly), then swap back in the mobile-friendly processor when you’re done.
The biggest obstacle would be the operating system. You would need something flexible enough to function across all platforms without sacrificing functionality. Automatic context switching would be paramount, and have to be done in a way that wouldn’t confound the user. The one OS that seems designed for this scenario right now is Windows 8, though I don’t know enough to say if it’s up to the task. Alternatives would include something based on Andriod or a combined iOS/OS X (though maybe iOS by itself would be sufficient).
There is a competing platform ideology that makes it likely this will never come to pass, and that’s cloud computing. This platform uses the economies of scale to run compute-intensive tasks in “the cloud” while keeping the user hardware inexpensive. This is where Google is placing its money and I can’t argue with it’s benefits. It does have drawbacks, however, in that you need to be connected to the Internet and be willing to give of your digital self fully to a third party. The latter issue has always been problematic for me despite the potential benefits. I don’t mind buying into a hardware ecosystem, one where I’m in control of my digital self. Giving up that control, and giving that one company full access to all my information, is a difficult choice.
Though, let’s be frank. Google already knows everything about me.