From: Ian Montgomerie
Subject: Re: Open Source Consumer Products
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 19:45:46 -0800
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On Tue, 19 Nov 2002 21:47:55 +0100, "Geraldo S."
>"Spehro Pefhany" wrote in message
>> On Tue, 19 Nov 2002 21:17:18 +0100, the renowned "Geraldo S."
>> >What do you guys think, would it be wise for a company to produce 'Open
>> >Source' consumer products (i.e. the design files and source codes, both
>> >firmware, drivers and application programs)?
>> Depends, for some products it might be an advantage, for others it
>> could be a big yawn, and for some it would be suicidal.
>> By open source, you mean something like the GPL?
>Yes, why not. It would mean that you're product is virtually future-proof
>(unless something really radically new came along).
>How about an Open Source PC? Or game console (someone tried that I think)?
>Or CD player? Or TV set? Mobile phone?I think appliances with lots of
>sofware (DSP or embedded) would absolutely benefit from this. This would
>mean that a growing number of devices would fit the bill. Most older analog
>TV's are pretty static designs but the newer digital ones would be
>infinitely upgradeable. Future versions will be completely digital (i.e.
>signal is digitized from the antenna, no IF stages).
Um, think about this for a minute. What is the model to make money on
"open-source consumer products"?
Much open source computer software doesn't make money at all, being
essentially done by volunteers (e.g. Linux). A typical model for
making money off open source is charging to support the software. But
consumer goods by definition have minimal support - maybe a few
firmware updates if there are bugs.
Take the example of a game console. The proven, reliable way to make
money from consoles is to sell the console at a loss, but make money
by charging a license fee to anyone who writes games for it. It's
about the only way to hit a price point for the console itself where
consumers will buy it (you can't sell a mass market console for more
than a few hundred dollars, but people will still pay 50+ dollars for
each game). So where does "open source" fit in here? The console OS?
It's simply irrelevant if, for example, you put Linux on a console.
To make money, you still have to be able to get license fees from
anyone who sells software that runs on the console. Occasional people
might write software for the console and not charge for it, but this
is simply irrelevant to the primary market (high production value
And, uh... what the heck is an "Open Source PC", if not a PC running
Linux? What do you expect, access to the actual hardware source so
you can make a P4 and motherboard in your personal fab?
As for televisions, the MPEG decoder on a digital TV is always a codec
chip, not a general purpose CPU. Even if you could implement new
codecs on it (sometimes impossible, otherwise quite difficult), where
the heck would the signal come from? Broadcasters aren't exactly
going to start sending out DivX tomorrow.