Razer, the high-end gaming hardware and software company, has just acquired Nextbit, the phone company looking to make on-board storage hassles a thing of the past. This was a very, very surprising acquisition for many, as, while both companies make their own hardware as well as software, they have traditionally operated in completely different sectors.
Nextbit boss Tom Moss says that both companies are ‘rebels’ in their respective industries, taking a very heavy “consumer-first” approach when it comes to hardware and software design decisions. What exactly does this acquisition mean for Nextbit in the future? And are there reasons to be optimistic about the tie-up? Let’s take a look at a few of the possibilities.
While software is arguably not part of Razer’s core competency, Nextbit would likely say that’s what they do best. The Nextbit Robin is founded on a very specific idea that users should not have to worry about the storage space on their device, and only use what they need when they need it. While Razer’s software platforms have evolved to be relatively decent over time, they have traditionally been a bit buggy and resulted in a median to poor end-user experience.
Razer CEO Min Liang Tan believes that Nextbit has a lot to offer on the software front and could potentially help to develop different Razer software such as Comms and Synapse.
We’ve been huge fans of what Nexbit has been doing, both the work on the phone technology and on the cloud-based storage side of things,
said Tan in a recent interview.
There is a lot of potential and talent. With Nextbit, it was really the software and design talent we wanted to bring in.
Tan says that the team of 30 will be working on developing more products under the Nextbit name, all the while operating under its own business unit. There’s no doubt Razer will be interested in tapping the substantial talent that the Nextbit team has to offer, and we’re hopeful they can help to make Razer’s software even better, whether it comes to communication, LED control, or something else entirely.
Hardware is the field where Razer really shines. While the company originally started out making high-end gaming mice, they eventually moved on to keyboards, headsets, speakers, and finally laptops. The introduction of the Blade in 2011 shook the entire industry to its core, changing the idea of what a ‘mobile gaming workstation’ could be.
Hardware is the field where Razer really shines
Razer is great at taking a product from a traditional market and pushing it to its absolute limit. The Blade is still known today as one of the thinnest, most premium and powerful gaming laptops on the market, and the Blade Pro introduced just recently became the most powerful mobile workstation in its form factor.
While Nextbit’s hardware has not exactly been marketed as ‘cool’, ‘sleek’, and ‘premium’, the company did a pretty fantastic job in making their Robin device feel like it was made for the consumer. The welcoming soft touch body mixed with the bright happy-go-lucky colors gave the device a very consumer-first feeling, which blended with the Nextbit community forums to produce a pretty fantastic company-to-customer relationship.
The premium dark and sleek hardware design philosophy of Razer, mixed with Nextbit’s customer-centric take, could result in a pretty successful continuation of the Nextbit device line.
A Razer smartphone?
In 2014, Razer produced a limited run of iPhone 5 and 5S smartphone cases, after fans noticed that Min Liang Tan was sporting one he had custom-made for himself. This run was incredibly well received, and led to consumers demanding that the company make a phone of their own. While Razer did not announce plans to make this demand a reality, it has made moves to merge into different markets such as desktop computer cases.
On that note, many of you have asked to see the custom Razer case I created for my own iPhone 5. Here it is! pic.twitter.com/eFMDQs2PSc
— Min-Liang Tan (@minliangtan) September 19, 2013
‘Designed by Razer’
‘Designed by Razer’ was a venture taken by the company to softly expand into different markets by working with hardware manufacturers to tailor existing devices to their own specifications. Up until now, the company has only used this venture to expand into the computer hardware case market, working with NZXT and Antec to develop cases using the seed company’s specifications, but with Razer’s design methodology and feature set.
A Razer-branded Nextbit product would make a lot of sense right now
Could this venture expand with the acquisition of Nextbit? Absolutely. As we mentioned earlier, Razer fans have been calling upon the company to produce their own device for what seems like eons now, and this could be the perfect opportunity.
As also mentioned, the Nextbit name will continue to thrive stamped onto the new devices the 30-strong team develops in the future. It would be no surprise for Razer to use the opportunity to soft-launch its own device. A ‘Designed by Razer’ Nextbit phone would be a great way for Razer to get a feel of how many customers would be interested in this new product line. A Razer-branded Nextbit product would make a lot of sense right now.
A full-fledged gaming device?
Let’s be a little imaginative here. Remember the Sony Xperia Play? That phone had gaming baked into its DNA, from the physical gamepad revealed by sliding out the touchscreen, to the custom UI that allowed you to browse through titles with ease. While that device would likely never be called a ‘smash hit’ by today’s standards, there’s no questioning it was, and continues to be, ridiculously innovative. We haven’t seen anything quite like that phone since it debuted back in 2011, though there have been hints of a gaming device refresh from a couple of other players in the industry.
Back in 2015, Acer showed off what would become the Predator 6 Gaming Smartphone. While the device did not actually ever make it to market, it proved to be a concept of what a gaming smartphone could potentially look like. The 6-inch device had aggressive red accents and Predator branding, and was planned to have a 10-core MediaTek processor to absolutely annihilate mobile gaming. It’s not clear why the Predator 6 never really took off, but it’s quite clear that there are a number of gamers out there who would like something they could use both as their phone, as well as a handheld.
This is where Nextbit’s cloud technology could really shine. NVIDIA has already developed some pretty intense cloud streaming software such as that built into the Shield TV that allows consumers to stream their games from their computer to a tablet, so why not a phone?
It could be argued that the smartphone-tablet merger we have all been waiting for is essentially here, as the word “phablet” has all but been phased out of the industry since most flagships are now at least 5.5″ or larger. If Nextbit worked with Razer and even NVIDIA to allow for a similar game-streaming experience for phones, users would be able to play their favorite titles anywhere in their house, without needing to pull out a laptop.
With the proper controls, whether on a separate controller or baked into the device itself, Razer could have a gaming powerhouse on their hands that could handle high-end mobile games on the go and full-fledged AAA PC titles at home. Razer has already produced the ‘Razer Edge’ gaming tablet for the mass market all those years ago, so why not bring it to smartphones now that the two platforms are finally entering a fully merged state?
A 3-screened behemoth?
Allow us to extend our imagination far into the outer reaches of possibility.
At CES 2017, Razer showed off a prototype of the world’s first triple-screened 4K laptop, dubbed ‘Project Valerie’. This monster boasted a full fledged GTX 1080 graphics solution along with an unlocked intel Core i7 desktop-class processor to drive the immense amount of pixels provided by the three 17-inch 4K displays, and man was it beautiful. But what if Razer did something similar in mobile?
A 3-screened phone would certainly hold up to be a fantastic content consumption device, and when paired with an interface like Razer’s own ‘Serval’ Bluetooth game controller, you could have a mobile gaming platform like no other being born into the space. The laptop project shown at CES is made to eventually have sliding screens that make their way out of the main housing at the push of a button, which should theoretically also be possible for mobile given the right engineering team.
When Razer makes a new product, it is clearly different from the rest of the market
The industry is absolutely chock-full of small gimmicks being introduced to devices that essentially offer the same experience with small tweaks to differentiate them. These small tweaks are not exactly part of Razer’s philosophy. When Razer makes a new product, it is clearly different from the rest of the market. Whether it is the touchscreen trackpad of the Razer Blade Pro, or the millions of pixels present in its triple 4K ‘Project Valerie’ prototype, there is always something about these devices which differentiate them from the competition.
The smartphone industry desperately needs innovation like this. Even if half the products Razer shows off at trade shows never actually make it to the consumer, at least someone is trying, and that alone is something to get excited about.
What about later down the road?
Assuming consumers are sufficiently interested in what Razer and Nextbit have to offer, Razer mobile software could be a major part of the Nextbit team’s development ventures. Razer Comms is a group messaging and voice chat software that already works pretty well on mobile, and Synapse could easily be re-branded to control the hardware and software settings on a mobile device.
The products developed by Razer over the years have traditionally had at least one ‘killer feature’ meant to differentiate them from other players in the market, and while most phone manufacturers have done the same thing since the beginning, they’ve often been cheap gimmicks that didn’t end up amounting to much.
This is all just speculative of course, but I think all of us would be very interested in what kind of sleek, premium mobile experience the new joint venture can develop over the coming years, whether it comes to better Razer software, a custom mobile OS, or a whole new device entirely.
What are you hoping to see out of the new Razer-Nextbit alliance? Whatever the future holds, you’d better be sure it will have RGB!