Carl Pei, OnePlus co-founder who parted ways with the company last year, has announced the name of his next venture: Nothing. It describes itself as a “London-based consumer technology company” and counts investors such as iPod inventor Tony Fadell, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman and YouTuber Casey Neistat. It plans to release its first “smart devices” in the first half of the year.
“Nothing is the mission to remove barriers between humans and technology to create a seamless digital future,” said Pei, Nik’s founder and CEO, in a press release. “We believe that the best technology is beautiful, yet natural and intuitive to use. When it is sufficiently advanced, it should fade into the background and feel like nothing. ”
What is unclear at the moment is exactly what products Nothing is planning to release. In an interview with The Verge Prior to today’s announcement, Pei declined to offer specific details about what form Nothing’s first “smart devices” will take. He also declined to say which companies Nothing plans to compete with.
However, Pei confirms that there are no plans to release products in several categories, with the ultimate goal of building an ecosystem of units.
“Right now … the team is being built, so we want to focus on simpler categories,” says Pei, “but when our team gets capabilities and skills, we will start to move up. The ultimate vision of having everything connected in a seamless way, it can only happen when you have several categories of products connected. ”
During Pei’s time at OnePlus, the company released everything from smartphones to headphones and even TVs. Last year, The cable reported that Peis’ new company could focus on music and could include the production of headphones. When asked, Pei refused to confirm whether headphones would be among Night’s early products. Asked by The cable, he said the company’s plans were “so much more than that.”
While there has been speculation that this may indicate that nothing is developing an associated music service, Pei says The Verge that nothing plans to make the most of their money by selling hardware instead of software subscriptions, at least in the first place. “We have not spent too much time thinking about the software part of it,” says Pei. “It must definitely be a good user experience if you are going to make money on software.” In the long run, however, he admits that a “healthy business” requires both good hardware and good software.
Peis’ new company plans to stand out by using “tailor-made” components in its products right from the start. Pei suggests that this will stop Nothing products from looking too much like the competition. “There is a reason why many products on the market look quite similar,” Pei notes. “It’s because they share many of the same components and the same building blocks.”
On the other hand, OnePlus phones have met with frequent criticism over the years for the similarities they have shared with Oppos phones. In a recent video, Marques Brownlee outlined a series of Oppo and OnePlus devices with strikingly similar hardware, such as the OnePlus 5 and Oppo R11, OnePlus 6T and Oppo R17, and the OnePlus Nord N100 and Oppo A53. The two brands even use similar fast charging technologies. OnePlus has Dash Charge, and Oppo has VOOC.
While OnePlus and Oppo are reported to exist under the same Chinese corporate giant BBK Electronics, Pei says that nothing is unhindered by such a scheme. “[Nothing is] a completely independent company owned by our foundation team and our investors, ”says Pei, with its own R&D department. And despite using contract manufacturers to build their devices, Pei says nothing will just “brand someone else’s products” again. ”
But while Pei hopes nothing early products will have “differentiated” designs without feeling “different to be different”, there is any hope for them to fade into the background.
“I imagine a grass field with people having picnics and there is no screen, there is no laptop screen, there is no phone screen, there is no smartwatch screen, there is no billboard screen,” Pei said. “It’s a kind of end state.”
The edge columnist Walt Mossberg referred to this future condition as ambient computing in 2017. Pei admits it may take 20 or 30 years to come, but he says the future his company is aiming for is one where the technology is similar … well, nothing.