Subject: Re: GPL-like hardware design license?
From: Crispin Cowan <crispin@cse.ogi.edu>
Date: Wed, 06 Oct 1999 19:59:47 -0700

Brian Bartholomew wrote:

> Here's another free hardware project I'd like to see.  The DEC Itsy
> (http://www.research.digital.com/wrl/itsy/index.html) is an existance
> proof of a PDA-sized computer with desktop-PC-sized power.  It runs
> Linux and has enough CPU to do speaker-independent speech recognition.

There is no existance proof that such a device can be manufactured for a
reasonable cost.  Palm(tm) devices run $300-$500 for machines with 8 MB of RAM,
while the Itsy has 64 MB.  DEC/Compaq has said they have no immediate plans to
produce product in bulk.  Contemplate why they would make such a decison :-)


> A businessman could create the same design, keep the design
> proprietary for a short time, limit their profit to something
> reasonable, and attract the same set of customers as the hobbyist.  Do
> you know any MBA students who are looking for a senior project?

At a volume of several thousand (instead of several hundred thousand) you can
count on the hardware cost at least doubling.  So now it's a $2000 palm top toy
that's almost half as useful as a $1500 Toshiba Libretto (which can run Linux,
BTW).  Are you sure this is still a good idea?

Besides all the picking on details, the main thrust here is that when it comes to
manufacturing hardware, volume is everything.  Fail to get huge volumes, and the
price for your device skyrockets.

Caveat:  all this crap is 2nd hand at best.  I'm just surprised that some serious
hardware people haven't jumped in here to point out the fly in the soup.

Crispin
-----
 Crispin Cowan, Research Assistant Professor of Computer Science, OGI
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