Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] Re: GPL-like hardware design license?
From: "John Metzger" <>
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 20:56:00 -0700


> I find this fascinating.
> RedHat employs programmers -- this represents some portion of their
> monthly nut.  RedHat also gives away the results of this R & D.  And,
> of course, RedHat uses software that they didn't create which runs on
> RedHat systems.
> RedHat makes money on customer relationships, based on faith and
> trust (in much the same way that IBM does).  The actual product is in
> reality a commodity.
> Now, let's say I design a motherboard which has distinct advantages
> over what is out there already.
> If my business model says that I have to make money selling
> motherboards, and motherboards alone, giving my design away simply
> creates competition in my space.  But, if I am a forward-thinking
> company, then I actually have some other space in mind into which I
> will be selling my products, for example, entire system packages for a
> specific market segment.

So if you have some proprietary accounting software or vertical market
software you can bundle that with all this Open hardware and GPLed Linux
stuff and make a killing (large profit with your private/proprietary/closed

But if I have some proprietary code that has to run inside the kernel or at
interrupt time I can't do that because the GPL won't allow mixing that
private code with the public code.

So what's so particularly evil about my private code but so good about your
private code? Both are private/closed/proprietary code? One runs at
interrupt time, the other as a process under Linux.

Now consider the hardware side. I can mix all the open building blocks
(cells) I want to create a new open ASIC, and I can add a closed chip to the
motherboard (analogous to the closed accounting package in the software
example) to do SCSI or Firewire but I can't mix an open cell with a closed
one to produce a new closed cell.

To my way of thinking it doesn't make sense in either case.

> In this scenario, I'm not even interested in manufacturing
> motherboards, I simply want to use a higher quality motherboard in my
> completed systems.
> So, instead of paying for the actual production of the boards, I let
> others have my design, and they do the work of creating the actual
> good, which might involve creating business relationships with BIOS
> vendors, leveraging existing relationships with chip manufacturers,
> etc.
> I simply purchase the board from the lowest bidder, with the distinct
> advantage of having had my board design available before anyone else,
> allowing me a faster time to market, better integration into my
> specific vertical markets, etc.
> End result?  I paid for R & D but not manufacturing, I stayed focused
> on doing the business that I am in, and I'm first to market in my
> segment.

Would you do that if I could take all your designs, get them from the same
manufacture you can and build the same exact system you can and sell it to
your customers, probably at a lower price since I don't have to pay for any
R&D at all? The only thing that gives you an advantage is the proprietary
accounting package isn't it? What if I've got deeper pockets backing my
company and can afford to run at a loss longer than you can or offer
services you can't afford to offer at no cost.