At the end of last year, Apple launched a MacBook equipped with an Arm version of the chip. On the one hand, the self-developed chip M1 provides strong performance and extremely low power consumption and has attracted much attention. On the other hand, it has been criticized for its "defect" of not being able to increase memory by itself .
Coincidentally, there is an American start-up company that wants to work against the MacBook product concept.
The light of future laptops? Or is it just a short-lived?
The company called Framework will launch a notebook product with a modular concept this summer, pre-equipped with a 13.5-inch screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a complete notebook frame. On top of this, users can replace the motherboard, interface, keyboard, memory, and even the screen frame and other elements by themselves.
As can be seen from the official disassembly and assembly video, the current product assembly process is quite mature. Almost all parts can be replaced and assembled by disassembling the C-face panel. Only small modules such as wireless networks are set on the back. It seems that it can be replaced by hot-plugging. The weight of the whole machine is about 1.3KG. The thickness is 1.58cm at the thinnest point. The size is similar to that of MacBook Air, but it is a little thicker.
Obviously one of the selling points of this product is modularity. The idea of transplanting the DIY concept on the PC to the laptop is very new but not the first. There are predecessors who have put this concept into practice before Framework.
Its predecessors, the ending is mixed
As early as 2015, a brand called SOLO Notebook launched a modular laptop product, and also slogan As easy as Lego, they did not deceive people. Its keyboard, touchpad, screen and other modules are like building blocks, connected through a USB interface (the Micro USB was still used at the time), and even the appearance looks like a Lego toy.
And Dell’s Alien series, also introduced a modular design in the Area-51m series launched a year ago, because it uses a desktop processor, so not only the conventional memory and hard disk can be removed and replaced, The same goes for processors and graphics cards.
Then some products chose another form. The laptop itself is thinner and lighter, but it supports an external GPU docking station to maintain a light and slim figure outside. When you return home and connect with a powerful external graphics card, it reveals the other side of the wild. This design has been favored by many users, but due to the high price, this type of product has only received the attention of a small group of game fans.
Leaping out of the notebook market, let us look at the field of mobile electronic products. Modular design is a trend that will appear once every three forks.
For example, the mobile phone products next door have been tested many times. LG G5, Moto Z Play, and Google Project Ara have all proved with their own actions that this road is not working at all. The reasons for the failure can probably be summarized in two aspects: cost High and small demand.
▲ LG G5 Image source: engadget
The three products mentioned above all start from zero, and the functional modules introduced can only be implemented in their own product ecology. The modular design of rest assured is no different from closed products such as MacBook.
And the mobile phone category has a faster update speed. According to Aurora’s 2019 Q3 Smartphone Industry Quarterly Data Research Report, the frequency of mobile phone users in my country is mostly concentrated in 2-3 years, accounting for 29.7%, and only 24.7% of users who have changed phones after more than 3 years.
▲ Picture source: Aurora Big Data
The main motivation behind consumer replacement is to get a smoother experience in addition to changing camps. Many users want to get a new one because they are tired of the appearance of active mobile phones.
The modular products listed above can only upgrade modules such as cameras and batteries, which cannot meet the needs of users to replace performance hardware, let alone replace the camp, which is naturally difficult to be accepted by users.
▲ Picture source: Aurora Big Data
Although this label of modularity has almost completely disappeared in the mobile phone circle. In other consumer electronics fields, there is still a silver lining, such as the outlier in the sports camera circle: Insta360 One R.
Borrowing the interchangeable lens design of a traditional camera, it is an interesting attempt to make a sports camera meet both the requirements of panoramic view and high image quality at the same time. However, due to the detachable feature, the necessary waterproof and dustproof performance of the sports camera is reduced. Perhaps this is why extreme sports enthusiasts are discouraged from choosing a more secure integrated design product.
It can be seen that Framework only relies on the selling point of modular laptop design, and the chance of success is not optimistic. Maybe you have to find other selling points to package yourself.
Nirav Patel, the founder of Framework, thought of environmental issues.
Reducing e-waste may be a selling point, but it is not a panacea
At present, whether it is a laptop or a mobile phone, every time it is replaced, it means that the old machine will be eliminated. If it is not broken, it can be sold to people in need and continue its life. If it is a completely scrapped product, the ultimate destination will be It becomes e-waste and is thrown into landfills or has a dedicated person for recycling.
On desktop PCs, our approach is slightly different: when a part is broken, most people will go online to purchase the corresponding part to replace it.
Even if the product is upgraded, it will choose to upgrade only certain components without the need to iterate the whole machine, thereby reducing the speed and frequency of e-waste generation. Over time, it will be beneficial to the long-term environmental protection plan.
Obviously Patel also hopes to use modular design to do things that are beneficial to Mother Earth. Perhaps it is precisely because of this vision that he has the Framework project.
However, brands can use environmentally friendly stories to package products, but how many users will really pay for it? Environmental protection can only be a plus point, it is difficult to become its product strength.
The true product power depends on what users are most concerned about: practicality.
If it can solve the user’s pain points, it might really be a success
From the official website of the product, it can be seen that this laptop has reserved memory and SSD locations, which can be expanded to up to 64GB memory and 4TB SSD. If you want to replace the processor, you need to replace the entire motherboard, corresponding to different The processor and heat dissipation scheme are also slightly different.
The currently available processor solutions are the eleventh-generation Core i5-1135G7, i7-1165G7 and i7-1185G7. The hardware configuration is enough to match the mainstream thin and light notebooks. Even without the gimmick of modular design, you can buy office When I’m on the laptop, I’m willing to look at it a few more times.
Although Framework’s product form is temporarily only this one, if the pre-order quantity is large, or the support of the father of the gold master is obtained, more size models and stronger performance expansion packs will be introduced later, which can highlight its modular advantage. .
However, the more pressing issue facing Patel is cost and how to change consumer perceptions.
It took more than 30 years for the customization of PC to develop to the shape of a free market where a hundred flowers bloom today. Fortunately, Framework is standing on the shoulders of giants. There is no need to go through all the pits again. The existing processing and The assembly process can already produce most of the components in this modular notebook, but how to reduce the cost and maintain the price at a reasonable level is a problem that Patel needs to solve.
The cost issue is quite tricky, but whether it can be properly resolved depends on how well consumers accept modular laptops. In other words, if users are willing to buy it, the purchase cost can be reduced.
Emm, this time comes back again. It seems that the success of the Framework will have to wait for the market to react after the actual product is launched.
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