Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] Re: GPL-like hardware design license?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1999 18:59:52 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Brian" == Brian J Fox <bfox@ua.com> writes:

    Brian> Now, let's say I design a motherboard which has distinct
    Brian> advantages over what is out there already.

    Brian> So, instead of paying for the actual production of the
    Brian> boards, I let others have my design, and they do the work
    Brian> of creating the actual good, which might involve creating
    Brian> business relationships with BIOS vendors, leveraging
    Brian> existing relationships with chip manufacturers, etc.

    Brian> I simply purchase the board from the lowest bidder, with
    Brian> the distinct advantage of having had my board design
    Brian> available before anyone else, allowing me a faster time to
    Brian> market, better integration into my specific vertical
    Brian> markets, etc.

    Brian> End result?  I paid for R & D but not manufacturing, I
    Brian> stayed focused on doing the business that I am in, and I'm
    Brian> first to market in my segment.

This is plausible.

The main problem I see is existence of a "lowest bidder" to purchase
the board from.  This implies that board manufacturing is a commodity
business, like CD pressing.  It doesn't have to be as perfect a
commodity business, but there do have to be potential manufacturers
with more plant than idea.  Is it?  (I assume this is how you get
started as a Gateway or Dell, but I don't know.)  If not, could it be
if there were good board designs being done by people who don't
manufacture them?

The reason is that even if your board is significantly better than a
given manufacturer's own product, they get the design profits from
their monopoly on that one.  There are theoretical results that say it
is better to wait and let somebody else eat your lunch rather than eat
it yourself.  But you're planning to publish the design, so your "low
bidder" needs to have a significant cost advantage in building the
thing to make profits themselves; they can't get an exclusive license
from you.

Of course, they also benefit from time to market lags for their
competitors (I think the sensible thing to do is release the design
with the product docs, though you might want to release to developers
under an NDA---beware legal problems with NDAs vis-a-vis GNU GPL, see
recent discussion on FSB, ftp://ftp.crynwr.com/fsb/archive/*).  They
could specialize in being the best firm for improvements on this
series of motherboards, they might have an advantage in producing
upgrade kits, etc.  If as I guessed there already are such firms out
there, this could be a business opportunity for them, too.


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