An Unexpected CES Trend: Modularity

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doron

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Choice is fine, but the iPhone has proven that people will rather have a simple device that can do many things okay-ish.

Of course I may be wrong, but this development looks more like a management fear of being left behind / too many captains will sink the ship kinda thing.
 

gadgety

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How about the type of modularity more than one user has asked for, the ability to switch off PCI-e GPUs not in use on a desktop system?

Sometimes I need to max out the number of GPUs for Octane rendering, at other times I may want to run multiple cards in SLI/Crossfire for gaming, and at other times I may only need one GPU for MadVR, or even only integrated as I'm just browsing the web. In addition to raising running cost having many GPU running in idle is total waste, non environmentally friendly. With four 980ti's it's 280 watts just sitting idle, each additional card adding 70 watts. Sure the next generation GPUs are going to be more energy efficient, but it's still a waste. I've seen arguments that it can't be done on the PCI-e standard. Well, change and evolve the standard then.
 

c4s2k3

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I have to agree on both counts. At some point you reach a situation where reliability of the overall product is negatively impacted by the number of hardware interfaces required to be supremely 'modular'. It's like I was reading a while back about that 'modular' phone (I forget the name) that was delayed because the various pieces were not holding together through anything other than 'careful' handling. As if that was supposed to be a surprising outcome :-/

In the end, if you make a multi-purpose product that is not modular, performs its functions reasonably well, and you can deliver it economically enough, there is little incentive for most people to want a modular alternative. I remember many years ago I would not touch a combo printer/scanner with a ten foot pole. If either component broke (and back then, that was a distinct possibility), you were stuck with it or it was prohibitively expensive to replace. Today, I wouldn't think twice given the price and reliability.

I think much of the modular trend we are seeing is about doing it because it's 'cool' or 'because you can'. Aside from techies who get excited about modularity, I don't see it gaining broad appeal because I expect evolving technology to yield more economical products over time, which can be combined reliably.
 

scolaner

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How about the type of modularity more than one user has asked for, the ability to switch off PCI-e GPUs not in use on a desktop system?

Sometimes I need to max out the number of GPUs for Octane rendering, at other times I may want to run multiple cards in SLI/Crossfire for gaming, and at other times I may only need one GPU for MadVR, or even only integrated as I'm just browsing the web. In addition to raising running cost having many GPU running in idle is total waste, non environmentally friendly. With four 980ti's it's 280 watts just sitting idle, each additional card adding 70 watts. Sure the next generation GPUs are going to be more energy efficient, but it's still a waste. I've seen arguments that it can't be done on the PCI-e standard. Well, change and evolve the standard then.
Yeah, good one. I think you're reinforcing my point, in a way a least: You have specific needs that aren't being addressed in the available tech. I think many enthusiasts have similar issues. (Mainstream users, too, for that matter.)
 

codyleemanofaction

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I think the iPhone gives an example of modularity as opposed to the one-size-fits all that you stated: docking stations for music, cases with battery, camera lenses for macro, not to mention apps for individual needs.
Now look forward to a day when your smartphone docks to a GPU and monitor via type-C...
 

surphninja

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Another source may be that the tech has only now advanced to the point where some of these modular solutions were viable and practical.
 

In terms of smartphones, the point of modularity isn't really about pick-and-choose features. It's about upgrading at a lower cost. When you upgrade phones, most of the time the only thing that really needed upgrading was the CPU and RAM. Screen resolutions have pretty much maxed out, camera capability is "good enough" that anyone wanting better buys a DSLR, there are plenty of bluetooth speakers on the market, and GPU isn't exactly a make or break item.

Most people upgrade phones because the CPU has gotten too slow or the RAM is insufficient for modern software. Make it modular and you can upgrade just those components for under $100, instead of $500-$700 for a new phone. (Ok, another major reason to upgrade is because you dropped the phone and broke the screen. But if that's modular too, you can simply replace it.)

The main impediment to modular phones (at least in the U.S.) is the current phone purchase model, where the carrier subsidizes it and hides its cost in your monthly bill. This has led to a massive market distortion where you pay $200 up-front for the high-end phone, pay nothing up-front for the low-end phone, both have the same monthly service charge. So the high-end phone ends up only costing $200 more than the low-end phone, instead of the $500 or so true difference in price. Effectively, the high-end phone is subsidized by the low-end phone. That leaves very little cost savings for a modular approach. This is gradually changing with T-Mobile leading the push to make the phone a separate purchase, so who knows where it'll lead.

Modularity adds bulk, but as components keep shrinking that additional bulk becomes less of an issue. In the general market, modularity wins out all the time over one size fits all. You can put different components into your PC. You can mount different brand tires onto your car. You can plug different headphones into your MP3 player. etc.
 

Evodriver

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Your iPhone has to be one of the most annoying examples of rigid conformity and utter lack of modularity. Every iPhone user has the same interface all day, every day. It is connected to its own system of platform-specific accessories with a proprietary adapter yet again.
This article is about modularity; the ability to change and interconnect devices. The iPhone is not modular. It doesn't even apply in the context of this article.
 

doron

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Your iPhone has to be one of the most annoying examples of rigid conformity and utter lack of modularity. Every iPhone user has the same interface all day, every day. It is connected to its own system of platform-specific accessories with a proprietary adapter yet again.
This article is about modularity; the ability to change and interconnect devices. The iPhone is not modular. It doesn't even apply in the context of this article.
I don't see the problem. The iPhone has a very close OS and ecosystem, which stands in stark contrast to the products mentioned in this article, so it was brought up to reinforce my statement about modular vs non modular products in this segment.
 
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