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It’s been a little while since we’ve heard much about Project Ara, the modular smartphone initiative from Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects, or ATAP, division. A post over on the Phonebloks blog offers up some more details about the project, specifically information about the device’s operating system and when we’ll see the next iteration of the prototype.

The post points the way back to a keynote speech at a conference held by Linaro, an open source engineering organization, which is working with Google ATAP on developing software for the Project Ara initiative. There, Project Ara lead Paul Eremenko spoke about Ara’s development, saying that ATAP will have “the first fully functional prototype” on hand at the second planned Project Ara developer conference this coming December, though the specific date isn’t set just yet. Meanwhile, a new module developer kit will be available by October or November.

Eremenko also spoke a bit about the work that’s being done on creating an operating system that will work with Project Ara’s unique “hot-swapping” abilities. In short, Android isn’t built to let users switch a device’s parts around on the fly:

“Some pretty severe changes are necessary. Android is not designed today for dynamic hardware configurations. So there are two major categories of modifications that we are making to Android. We’re delighted to be working with a team from Linaro to make those modification. And so we are changing the Android framework to be able to support the hot plug of various hardware peripherals – the ability to have dynamic configurations of the device hardware throughout its operational cycle. And we’re also creating at the Linux kernel level a set of generic class drivers for Unipro devices, very similar to the way USB class devices are implemented today.”

Eremenko said that he expects the operating system work to be finished and demonstrated by the end of Q1 or start of Q2 in 2015, and that the Android team at Google will actually implement the hot-swapping capability into Android L as a whole when that’s finished. That’s great news for those looking forward to a world with modular smartphones, but it also means that it’s not too likely that we’ll see a buyable Project Ara handset by this coming January as we’d previously thought.

Even still, the future of the project seems promising. Eremenko said that ATAP is working with partners like Toshiba, Quanta, Rockchip, and Foxconn to make the initiative a reality. Those are some pretty solid partners backing Ara, and shows that Google isn’t messing around with this idea. We will see Project Ara in the near future, and that’s cool as hell.

[Source: Phonebloks Blog]

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