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 as iPod inventor Tony Fadell, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman and YouTuber Casey Neistat as investors. It plans to release its first “smart devices” in the first half of this year.
“Nothing’s mission is to remove barriers between people and technology to create a seamless digital future,” said Pei, Nothing’s founder and CEO, in a press release. “We believe that the best technology is beautiful, yet natural and intuitive to use. When 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 edge Prior to today’s announcement, Pei declined to offer specific details on 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 nothing plans to release products across multiple categories with the ultimate goal of building an ecosystem of devices.
“Right now … the team is being built so we want to focus on simpler categories,” Pei says, “but once our team gets the capabilities and skills, we will start moving up. The ultimate vision of having everything connected in a hassle-free way, it can only happen when you have several categories of products connected. ”
During Pei’s employment with OnePlus, the company released everything from smartphones to headphones and even TVs. Last year, The cable reported that Pei’s new company could focus on music and perhaps include the making of headphones. When asked, Pei declined to confirm whether headphones would be among Nights’ early products. When asked by The cable, he said the company’s plans were “so much more than that.”
While there has been speculation that this could point to nothing developing an accompanying music service, Pei says The edge that nothing plans to make the most of its money by selling hardware instead of software subscriptions, at least initially. “We have not spent too much time thinking about the software part of it,” says Pei. “It should definitely be a good user experience if you are going to generate revenue from software.” In the long run, however, he admits that a “healthy business” requires both good hardware and good software.
Peis’ new company plans to differentiate itself by using “custom-made” components in its products right from the start. Pei suggests that this will stop Nothing’s products from looking too much like its competitors. “There is a reason why many products on the market look quite similar,” notes Pei. “It’s because they share many of the same components and the same building blocks.”
In contrast, over the years, OnePlus phones have been frequently criticized for the similarities they have shared with Oppo phones. In a recent video, Marques Brownlee outlined a number of Oppo and OnePlus devices with strikingly similar hardware, such as the OnePlus 5 and Oppo R11, OnePlus 6T and Oppo R17 and 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 widely reported to exist under the same Chinese corporate giant BBK Electronics, Pei says nothing is unhindered by such an arrangement. “[Nothing is] a completely independent company owned by our founding team and our investors, ”says Pei with its own R&D department. And despite using contract manufacturers to build its units, Pei says that nothing “brands other people’s products”.
But while Pei hopes that Nothing’s early products will have “differentiated” designs without feeling “different to be different”, there is any hope that they will fade into the background.
“I imagine a grass field with people having a picnic and there is no screen, there is no portable screen, there is no phone screen, there is no smartwatch screen, there is no billboard screen,” Pei muses. “It’s a kind of end state.”
The edge columnist Walt Mossberg referred to this future state as ambient computing in 2017. Pei admits it may take 20 or 30 years to arrive, but he says the future his company is aiming for is one where its technology is similar … well, nothing.