This week, the biggest tech companies in the world have hit Las Vegas and CES 2014 to show off their own version of the future of consumer tech. PC peripheral maker Razer got its start in mice and keyboards, but the company has recently branched out into making its own high-end laptops and tablets. At CES today, Razer announced Project Christine, a new design concept for a modular desktop PC.
In the past, the Razer way has amounted to taking existing products, designing the hell of them and decking them in the company's signature black with green highlights. Project Christine is a bit different because it doesn't feel anything like a current desktop PC. The entire thing looks like an odd, rounded monument to some alien race; a machine that belongs inside of a game, not one that plays them.
"Project Christine is a new concept design that will revolutionize the way users view the traditional PC. This is the first gaming system that is able to keep pace with technology and could allow consumers to never buy another PC, or gaming system, again," said Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan. "We have a history of bringing incredibly innovative concept systems to market and it's fair to say that Project Christine is a very exciting new prospect for future development."
The idea behind Project Christine is that building a PC is complex and hard for the average consumer. Instead of a case that you have to slot equipment into, Project Christine instead features a one-size-fits-all tower that you plug specialized modules into. Need to upgrade your CPU or GPU? Just unplug the old module from the tower and plug-in your replacement mod. Simple.
The mods can fit into any slot in any order and each one has active cooling and noise cancellation. The center tower uses PCI-Express to automatically sync components for easy changing. The system even includes an LCD touch-screen unit to monitor the overall system and each individual module. And Project Christine is still a PC, so users can install any operating system they want on it.
Project Christine is purely just a concept at this point, but even in this stage you can see some of the issues that will affect Razer. Notably the price of the modules themselves. You're not just buying a CPU, GPU, or hard drive, you're buying those components inside Razer's proprietary cases with active cooling. Price is the big barrier that could prevent Project Christine from being a real hit with mainstream consumers, who seem to be who this concept is aimed at.
There's also the possible backlash from PC game enthusiasts, some of whom actually prefer the idea of buying PC parts, slapping together a rig, and testing it until it sings in unison. Will they accept and embrace a system that takes some of the mystery out of building a PC? We'll see.
Oddly enough, Razer has also decided to jump headfirst into the consumer market with its new Nabu Smartband. The Nabu splits the difference between current wearable devices: it is part-smartwatch and part-lifetracker. That means the tiny black and green band syncs with your iOS or Android phone, has two OLED screens for notifications, and collects bio-feedback data, including your sleeping patterns, steps walked, distance traveled, and stairs climbed. It's currently $49 for developers with a worldwide launch at the end of Q1 2014, with a retail price to be decided later.
What does the Nabu have to do with games? Seemingly nothing. The device points to a Razer that's expanding outward into other spaces away from gaming. Hopefully they don't lose the special sauce by spreading themselves thin, but it looks like the company is aiming to one day stand alongside the big dogs like Apple and Samsung. Good luck.