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Today, Google announced that it is now accepting applications from third party developers to receive Project Ara development boards later this month. This is the first real shot developers will have to start figuring out ways to make modules for the modular smartphone that’s set to come out in early 2015.

The application period is open now through July 17, so that’s a pretty small window for developers to get their ducks in a row and put in their requests. The next window will open the next day, and will be open until August 17, so organizations that need more time to work out their proposals, chances are good they’ll earn their developer boards in the second round. That’s likely part of an effort on Google’s part to give them a smaller pool of organizations to vet right away – and Google is already looking to take only the most likely of candidates seriously.

“We will prioritize requests based on technical experience and the strength of your module concept,” the application’s guidelines read. Google has a bit of a conundrum ahead of it with Project Ara: it needs third party developers to create the pieces for users to plug into Ara endoskeletons. But Google also needs developers who can get the job done well enough for the phone to justify its existence when it launches next year.

If Project Ara comes out with only a handful of third parties on board – thus limiting the amount of customization options available to consumers – the initiative will die before it has a chance to take off. On the flip side, if Google has too many developers making janky modules, consumers will be overwhelmed with crap, and once again, Project Ara will fail.

It’s interesting, since Google is already suffering a bit from this issue on the software side of things. By making Android open, it’s allowed developers to go hog wild in terms of creating apps and customizations to the OS. That has also given rise to Android being home to the highest amount of malware on any mobile OS, not to mention the mountains of crap that customers have to wade through on the Play Store.

The good news about Ara is that developing hardware in the form of modules necessitates more time and resources. As a result, we’ll see more useful offerings become available, but that also means the barrier for entry will be higher for underfunded developers with great ideas.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Project Ara launches in early 2015. Hopefully Google will strike the right balance with its developers.

[Project Ara Developer Hardware Request]

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