Ideas are Cheap - Build your mobile

Posted by Swaroop C H on July 17, 2008 Filed under: business, protodotin, startup, tech

It's that time of the year when fever spreads. And the ideaworm has got to me.

Inspired by Vijay Anand's "Ideas To Toss" series, I thought why not start my own occasional series as well? I'm calling it the "Ideas are Cheap" series. The name is a take on the common proverb "Ideas are Cheap. Execution is Everything."

So here's the idea for today:

Can we have a business where the users can customize the hardware that goes into their phone?

This is not a new idea. We are just applying Dell's business model to mobile phones. If Dell can do it for desktops and laptops, why can't it be done for mobile phones?

The customization can range from how much memory you want, whether you need a camera or not, etc. to choosing the color and the type of body (candybar or flip or other form factors) and so on.

The range of customization possible depends on the capabilities and costs involved in the assembly process. For example, users may be able to customize the phone by having a name for a special button called 'Mom' (or 'Dad' or 'Son' and so on) that is hotwired to call you. You can gift this to your corresponding loved ones. The advantage is it becomes a wonderful 'personal' phone and becomes easy-to-use for technophobic people.

The implementation will be challenging. For one, desktops and laptops can be assembled because of the plug-and-play IBM PC architecture as well as because the operating system easily adjusts to changes in the hardware. AFAIK, mobile phones are not built that way as of today and requires some configuration in the software based on which hardware features are present and which are not (please correct me if I am wrong). Making the software easily adaptable will be a major feature.

The other interesting part is to build a factory that facilitates this. It is very hard to build a supply-chain system for such a factory.

The good part is that the technology could be built on top of OpenMoko - after all, this is the kind of ideas that FIC (the sponsors of the OpenMoko project) had in mind in creating a mostly-open-hardware and open-source-software mobile computing project.

Personalization is one of the buzzwords that is supposed to make the big moolah for companies these days, and allowing people to customize a device that they carry around all day definitely has potential.

End credits: This idea was part of a random discussion between Ramjee and myself.

On a different tangent, there are lots of ideas waiting to happen in the software. For example, it's not only Apple that can do an App Store for their phone, this can be done for this platform too. Of course, we'll have to start off a holy war of choosing that one linux distro...

Perhaps similar ideas can be done on top of the Asus EEE PC as well?


Swaroop says:

@ScorpFromHell Heh, you proved that ideas are certainly 'cheap' i.e. everybody gets them

@TheDragonBook The point is that ideas alone are not sufficient, it requires execution to bring it to life.

@Shankar Yep.

@Shreyas Yes, but I was looking for something more layman-friendly.

@Sid, @Sharninder Whoa, that sounds a lot like what I was looking for! It does provide the customization i.e. the option to choose the hardware features. It would be easy for them to do the other step of personalization as well.

Sharninder says:

Actually isn't modumobile trying to do just that ? This is an israel based company I believe:

Shankar says:

There is some level of customization that happens on mobile phones. I can think of an example where a corporate customer wanted a specific brand of phone without a camera because they had a "no photography" policy inside their office. But you are right, the cell phone software is so cluttered that it becomes very difficult to bundle any hardware and expect the software to work.

scorpfromhell says:

Well, theres another axiom among the innovation managers, a given idea crosses atleast 10 different people around the world.

We both certainly did :) Check out my post on OpenMoko a couple of weeks back: ;) I went a bit more overboard with that idea ... and that idea of mine was because of a conversation in Slashdot! :D

thedragonbook says:

Are ideas really cheap?

Sid says:

A similar concept

Modular Phones.


Shreyas says:

Know about Bug Labs?


There's no comment box, but please do email me or tweet me your thoughts and criticisms, and I will publish the relevant ones here.