One of the announcements at CES 2014 that completely slipped by me was a new undertaking by Razer, called Project Christine. Essentially, the idea was that computer needed to be far more compartmentalised than past standards and with most things these days being plug-and-play (PnP) compatible, Razer thought it would be interesting to build a PC that’s more akin to LEGO, stacking in each new component in its own section of the chassis and allowing for easy system upgrades by just popping individual modules in and out.
The main column stalk in the middle of it all is sort of an interconnect bus, using PCI-Express or SATA connections to support the devices you’d be plugging in. For more complex units like graphics cards, the module would be entirely self-contained and water or oil-cooled (that part was still up in the air). While it sounds rather exotic and very cool, Razer’s CEO, Min-Liang Tan, says things don’t look very promising for the concept.
Tan acknowledged the issues for the concept modular computer in a short interview between Tan and Techradar’s Michelle Fitzsimmons. Live Valve’s Steam Machine initiative, Project Christine’s success depends on Razer themselves carrying the brand initially and then spreading it out to OEM partners and building up and improving the standard and the hardware-based interconnect. But this is both financially and logistically complex.
“The challenge is that it’s not something we’d like to undertake alone,” said Tan in the interview. “We’ve had conversations with OEMs. It’s not entirely promising right now because OEMs are excited about pushing products and not really innovating on that front.”
“We’ve had good conversations,” he offered. “We’ll have announcements through the end of the year. We’re hoping to get two to three OEM partners on board.”
Valve faces the same sort of problems with their Steam Machines rollout. While they’re much further ahead in execution than Razer is (having a nicely integrated Linux-based operating system and a decent controller) there’s still uncertainty on the hardware front about what Valve thinks needs to be included by default and what kind of hardware and pricing standards their partners need to stick to.
It doesn’t help that Valve is taking a very long time finishing up the design of the Steam controller as well as pushing out a Release Candidate of Steam OS to the general public.