Google has shelved Project Ara, according to separate reports by Reuters and Recode, halting investment in the modular smartphone initiative as part of a broader move to streamline its hardware efforts.
Project Ara grew out of Google’s Motorola Mobility unit in 2013 as an effort to bring a customizable, modular smartphone to market. Users could theoretically upgrade a battery or camera instead of buying an entirely new phone, for instance, and could add speakers or other peripherals to the phone.
Google had hoped to bring a Project Ara device to market by 2015, but the company continuously struggled to make the effort commercially and financially viable. Google said last year that a pilot launch had been pushed back to 2016.
Rick Osterloh, a former Motorola chief whom Google hired earlier this year to unify its hardware line, ultimately decided Project Ara was unlikely to succeed, according to Recode. Google instead will reportedly hone its focus on Android devices, Chromebooks and Google Home gadgets.
Despite the apparent setback, Google hasn't been shy about its ambitions to increasingly focus on hardware in an effort to leverage Android's position as the world's most popular mobile operating system. CEO Sundar Pichai said a few months ago that the company planned to "be more opinionated about the design" of Nexus handsets. And the company is planning to bring two new phones to market -- the Sailfish and the Marlin -- that will carry Google’s brand but not that of the manufacturer, which is likely to be HTC, according to a recent report from Android Police.
The smartphone market is a brutal space where profits are extremely hard to come by for any company not named Apple or Samsung. But Android’s position as the world’s dominant smartphone operating system continues to provide opportunities for Google to gain ground as a vendor of mobile devices. The demise of Project Ara may actually mean that Google is stepping up its other efforts in mobile hardware.
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