Wired: Open Source Hardware


In Wired’s latest magazine, there was an article on open source hardware: “Build It. Share It. Profit. Can Open Source Hardware Work?”. Massimo Banzi, co-founder of the Arduino project, posts all of the design files, schematics, and even software online, so that anyone can build their own Arduino board. It is a chipmaking robot, and 50,000 Arduino boards have been sold in the past two years. Arduino controls the brand, and this is part of the reason that they still sell any boards at all: anyone can make one, but only certain companies are allowed to use “Arduino” on their product, and they in return do have to pay a small fee. Surprisingly, this has actually helped Arduino. When other manufacturers make low-quality boards, with flimsy wiring and soldering, word gets around and Arduino sales increase.

As always, the question of money comes up. Software doesn’t cost much to make, but hardware? Arduino, like many others, sells their expertise. The boards cost $35, and Arduino makes very little off that–a few dollars, maybe. “But the serious income comes from clients who want to build devices based on the board and who hire the founders as consultants.” As far as the entire company is concerned, working for firms who want Arduino products can be relatively easy: “For example, one client wanted to control LED arrays. Poking around online, Banzi found that someone in France had already published Arduino code that did the job. Banzi took the code and was done.”
Wired really covered a lot with open source this month; online the article is 6 pages long. It has a lot of neat ideas and is really worth a read for all. Alert to bigtime hardware manufacturers: you may have to change your business style.
View article here.

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