Is MODU, an Israeli startup, pioneering change in modular cellular connectivity?
Posted by evolvingwheel on February 10, 2008
Before I even start talking about MODU, I should first explain why this modular cellular connectivity interests me in the first place. It’s all about customization delivered through personalized device adaptation. The concept of modular phones is that there will be a bare minimum radio device with basic functionalities like keypad, speaker, and LCD. Once these components make the UI, the basic need of the phone is delivered through two way communication. However, the device unfolds to a genie when you snap the small modular phone into bigger devices with added functional attributes. That’s what interests me. The ability to build non-cellular objects over a cellular backbone (handset) that can flip in and out whenever needed.
Now let’s see how MODU, an Israeli startup led by Dev Moran (the guy who sold USB flash drive to SANDISK for $1.6B), plans to change the landscape through it’s modular phones. MODU has come up with this device that weighs 1.3 oz and has all the basic items of a cellular phone. What gives this phone a competitive value is the ability to slide it in jackets that have different functional components and deliverables beyond just a phone. MODU has already partnered with three major cell service providers in Europe and eying into the US market pretty soon. As claimed by the market analysts, MODU has the potential of changing the nature of the game. Just think about it – as of today cell phone OEMs are coming with more and more electronic capabilities in their phones – camera, media player, scanner, video. On the other hand, if the modular phone takes off, it can dissociate the need for all those fancy abilities from the fundamental nature of a phone. And that’s what opens the horizon for non-phone makers. Consider Gucci coming up with a very very fashion sleek jacket that can ride on MODU and change into a cellular phone. On the other hand, MODU can slide behind a GE Microwave and provide the ability to call the microwave and start heating food. Ofcourse, you would need a OEM standardization of operational uniformity through IEEE or some other body. Read about MODU [here].
Recently, I have been analyzing new market entries from the perspective of disruptive innovation (Clayton M. Christensen). Christensen distinguishes between “low-end disruption” which targets customers who do not need the full performance valued by customers at the high-end of the market and “new-market disruption” which targets customers who have needs that were previously unserved by existing incumbents. Now, MODU kind of satisfies the pointers of low-end disruption. Nevertheless, the disruptive technology comes with a potential of putting existing business models on their head as new market entrants can use this platform. Just think about it this way – when broadband became ubiquitous (in relative term) the VOIP players who are non-traditional service providers, got into the game and wrecked havoc on the telecom incumbents. May be MODU is going to alter the image in a similar manner? How about if MODU runs it’s plan well and every connected device comes with a logo MODU-Enabled? Just the same way DOLBY became the de facto standard for high end digital sound. Now, that will entirely depend upon how MODU approaches the market, builds the partnerships, creates a robust leverage with economy of scale, and executes with finesse.