When Framework Laptop came out it had all the potential in the world to be a great laptop and serviceable and upgradable. But – and there is always a but – it would only work if the ecosystem did. Framework needed to build a market around the laptop so it can be bigger than a company’s feature ideas and release cycles. And more immediately, I needed to prove that I was investing in the idea itself, that the Framework wasn’t just going to move on to newer, brighter things that broke its upgrade path.
On the broader ecosystem front, the success of the Framework remains to be determined. But his own intentions don’t seem to have wavered. This week, Framework announced that the Framework Laptop motherboard – which includes storage and memory slots, connectors for four Framework expansion cards and four displays, and three different configurations of 11th Gen Intel processors – is now available separately on Framework market. The cheapest version, which comes with an i5-1135G7 chip, costs US$399. The most expensive version, with an i7-1185G7 processor, costs US$799.
Framework also shared all the documentation and 3D printable projects you need to build your own case or device around the motherboard. And you really can build almost anything: if you put in a little storage and power, the Mainboard Framework quickly becomes a working computer like a turbocharged (and much bigger) Raspberry Pi.
The Framework market has continued to grow since the laptop’s launch last year, though it’s still mostly simple computer parts: lots of swappable ports, swappable memory, and different types of keyboards, but not much in the way of bold new device ideas. This makes sense, as the focus of the Framework itself has always been more on updates and fixes. And the Framework’s main plan for motherboards seems to be to give people ways to reuse their old ones after they buy new upgrades. (Like, for example, when the Framework hopes to offer 12th Gen Intel chips.)
But making the motherboard separately can also be a way to start a different kind of ecosystem, in which users and developers can build different types of computers from the Framework’s model. All this is to say, someone please make a Framework-based cyberdeck and tell me where to buy it.