Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] Re: GPL-like hardware design license?
From: Geert Uytterhoeven <>
Date: Wed, 6 Oct 1999 08:55:01 +0200 (MET DST)

On Tue, 5 Oct 1999, John Metzger wrote:
> >>>>>> "John" == John Metzger <> writes:
> > 
> >     >> If the designs were publically available, they would be useful
> >     >> in education.  Etc, etc.
> >
> >     John> Sure, but where's the profit in that? I'm not part of the
> >     John> subsidized education establishment.
> >
> > The point is, where's the _cost_ in that?  _No cost to you,
> No, there is a cost. The cost to me is that competitors get to sell hardware
> for less than I can because they get to use the R&D I paid for at no cost.
> That's the cost to me. I pay to improve the design and everyone else can use
> it without 1) improving it at all or 2) repaying the cost of the R&D that I
> paid for.
> There is no cost to me (other than my time) to improve Linux, up load the
> changes and distribute them to everyone else. The same is not true of

If you work for a company, your time costs money. The time you spent on
designing and implementing the software is R&D cost. If you later release the
code under GPL, your competitors have an advantage as well. So the analogy
is false.

> hardware. Hardware costs something to manufacture and distribute.

Right, `to manufacture and distribute'. Provided we have good free tools, the
design doesn't cost anything (other than our time, if we do it during our spare

So there is an analogy between software and hardware in the design phase.
Originally people couldn't believe GPL (for software) worked. I hope we can
prove that it's true for hardware as well.

> Specifically, suppose we had a "open hardware" north bride that is
> functionally the same as the Motorola MCP107. Now suppose I pay (a lot) to
> build a newer north bridge that supports 4X AGP, has the equivalent of the
> ATI Rage built in, include Ethernet, USB and Firewire all in the north
> bridge and supports faster ram (PC133) and I redesign the motherboard to use
> the newer bridge chip. If I publish all those changes anyone, like Prophet
> Systems, can simply use them without paying the R&D cost which I had to pay.
> Why would anybody invest the money to make the changes to the hardware when
> they can't recapture the investment?

And your R&D cost is: design + early manufacturing (for compensating for the
imperfect design tools).

Supposed we have good design tools (incl. simulators), it should be possible to
design a chip, motherboard, ... without the actual need for building hardware.
It's only later we need the deep pockets to manufacture the hardware.

Unfortunately those tools don't exist yet...



Geert Uytterhoeven ----------------- Sony Suprastructure Center Europe (SUPC-E) ------------------- Sint Stevens Woluwestraat 55
Phone +32-2-7248632 Fax +32-2-7262686 ---------------- B-1130 Brussels, Belgium