Talking tech since 2003

It seems I wasn’t the only person wondering if today’s news that Lenovo was purchasing Motorola Mobility from Google spelled the end of Project Ara, the company’s ambitious modular smartphone project. A post on the Verge reports that Project Ara—along with the rest of the Advanced Technology and Projects group behind the initiative—will stay at Google.

According to the post, the news came by way of a conference call with Lenovo in the wake of the acquisition’s announcement. Apparently the Advanced Technology and Projects team will begin working under the leadership of the Android Team at Google, but will “maintain a more independent role.”

The post also makes reference to another of Motorola’s initiatives, the neck tattoo microphone for which a patent was filed recently. That one, too, will stay under Google’s supervision.

This is good news for fans of innovation and forward thinking. I have no doubt that Motorola will still turn out the same kinds of smartphone products under Lenovo as they did under Google, but I was concerned that more off-the-wall, and less immediately profitable ideas like Project Ara would get lost in Lenovo’s attempts to go head-to-head with Apple.

In fact, now that Project Ara will be directly in the purview of the Android Team, I have a feeling that there will be even more movement on bringing a practical, workable modular smartphone to market than there was before.

Google has made its reputation on creating and releasing disruptive technologies and ideas. Some of those ideas, like Gmail, Chrome, and the suite of cloud-based Google Drive apps, change the tech landscape in broad strokes. Other ideas, like Google+ or the late, not-so-lamented Google Wave, fail to make much of a dent. But what makes Google an important powerhouse for innovation is that the company tries new things and isn’t afraid to back failures. After all, there’s no chance of success without the risk of failure.

To me, Project Ara could up-end what we understand about the smartphone market, and could do a lot to benefit consumers all over the world. Most companies would shrink away from a risky proposition like this, especially one that has a vested interest in releasing and selling whole, new handsets to users always ready to shell out cash for the latest gadget. Google, on the other hand, is too big to care about that sort of thing. Now that Project Ara’s continued existence has been assured, I’m even more excited about its potential for the future.

And, hey! We might also eventually get that wacky neck tattoo microphone. So there’s that.

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