You know how you can upgrade some components in your computer when they start to feel stale instead of going out and buying a whole new PC? That’s a lot harder to do with a laptop than a desktop, and the only “upgrade” most mobile tablets offer is the option to add a microSD card.
Rhombus Tech wants to change that by developing a platform that lets you swap out the CPU, memory, and other vital components of a tablet (or laptop, or desktop) when you want to upgrade — without requiring you to buy a new display, case, or other components.
This week the first working samples of the EOMA-68 cards were demonstrated.
EOMA stands for Embedded Open Modular Architecture, and 68 stands for the number of pins on the interface. Basically, an EOMA-68 card uses the same interface as a PCMCIA card.
Not only is the goal to create upgradeable devices (allowing tablets and other gadgets to have a much longer useful life than they might otherwise enjoy), but the group is also focusing squarely on hardware with support for free and open source software.
Only CPU from manufacturers that comply with the GPL will be used, which means that you should be able to run GNU/Linux as well as Android on a device with an EOMA-68 card.
The first prototypes feature an Allwinner A10 ARM Cortex-A8 single core processor. That chip is starting to look a little dated, but this project has been in the works for a long time. In fact, it was the folks at Rhombus Tech who first made us aware of the Mele A1000 hackable Android TV box a year ago, thanks to its Allwinner chip and support for both Android and Linux.
Rhombus Tech is also exploring other chips, including Freescale’s i.MX6 ARM Cortex-A9 processors, Allwinner’s A20 and A31 ARM Cortex-A7 chips, and the Ingenic jz4760 MIPS chip.
And one of the first devices that could be designed to use an EOMA-68 card is a tablet called the Flying Squirrel. It’s currently in development, and it’s expected to have a 7 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, a camera, WiFi, and KDE Plasma Active software.
As a sidenote, the Flying Squirrel may end up being the long-anticipated Vivaldi tablet.