If you've been in the mobile space for a long time, you may recall the buzz from nearly a decade ago about the concept of the "personal mobile hub." The idea was that computers don't need to be big (even laptop big) general machines, but rather you could break out the components and make for interesting combinations. That is, you could have a small core unit that was basically just a CPU with some wireless connectivity, and then add in additional components as necessary (or simply let other things connect to the hub). So, your mobile phone could connect to the hub to get better wireless capabilities. You could also have a separate storage module for extra storage. Then, perhaps you could have different screen technology depending on what you needed. Or different inputs. The whole idea was to make computing a lot more modular. Unfortunately, pretty much every attempt at doing so failed (often miserably). For years, the concept was championed
by a company called IXI, who got a lot of hype but produced little in the way of a product for quite some time. In 2004, it finally came up with a product called the ogo
, which was a messaging device sold by AT&T Wireless. However, the other components (the whole point of such a system) never appeared and the device mostly died off (though, it's been revived at times elsewhere).
There's some buzz going around about a new startup called Bug Labs that is in some ways bringing back this very concept with more of an open source/DIY/hacker ethos
. Right now, exactly what
Bug Labs is doing isn't entirely clear, but it sounds like they're producing something quite similar to the general idea of the personal mobile hub -- but making it very open and encouraging everyone else to develop apps and systems for it. In fact, it sounds like the company doesn't plan on being in the hardware business at all
. This is definitely a step forward from the IXI way of doing things, but it still remains to be seen whether or not the market really buys into the idea of modular computing in this manner. The good news for Bug Labs, however, is that if such a concept is going to succeed, it's probably going to take an approach similar to what Bug is doing.