’s Project Ara
seeks to develop a modular
smartphone that could revolutionize the mobile industry, but one company--Entegra Technologies--has already announced a modular tablet that it believes will bring about radical change perhaps even sooner.
The Entegra Crossfire Pro is a tablet whose components you can swap in or out without upgrading the entire system. At launch, it will sport a 9.7-inch daylight-readable display with a resolution of 1024x768 that supports touch, glove, or stylus input. The device is no featherweight at 2.5lbs.
The heart of the system is the quad-core Intel
M-Series N2930 COM (computer on module), which itself can be swapped out for another COM when necessary, and the Crossfire Pro also features Intel Gen 7 graphics; 4GB of DDR3L SDRAM; 64GB of mSATA storage; 2MP front- and 5MP rear (with flash and autofocus) cameras; and an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, and compass.
For connectivity, the device offers 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi (with MiMo), Bluetooth 4.0, and LTE. There are front-facing stereo speakers, USB 2.0/3.0, mini HDMI, and an SD card along with a hot-swappable (33.5Whr) Li-ion battery with a purported 6 hours of juice.
Here’s where it gets interesting: You can dual-boot operating systems
and can choose from Android, Linux, or Windows, and essentially every
spec listed above can (and presumably will) be changed at some point
over the course of the device’s lifespan.
Entegra Crossfire Pro accessories
There are side-mounted I/O modules that let you switch up which ports you have. There’s an expansion module bay, a docking connector, and a clamshell keyboard connector, and the chassis of the tablet sports user-programmable buttons.
Although Entegra is hoping to engage others to develop compelling modules for the Crossfire Pro, the company has already built quite a few. These range from a simple carrying handle to payment transaction hardware, but the sky’s the limit. Entegra gave us one example of a use case that would involve adding joysticks and buttons on modules in order to control drones. You can build and integrate Arduino-based modules, too.
If it sounds as though this is less of a consumer-facing device than an industrial one, you’d be right--so far. Entegra told us that at first the Crossfire Pro is aimed at military as well as commercial applications (such as hospitals and POS deployments), but they expect to see a convergence into the consumer market as early as nine months from now. The hardware and software will be open, and the company plans to push an initiative to recruit university groups to develop modules for the Crossfire Pro starting in the next six months.
Entegra is not a company you’d normally view as a competitor to Google or Samsung, but the company clearly believes it has the beginnings of a major shakeup in how we think of tablets.