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Reply-To: "Geraldo S."
From: "Geraldo S."
References: <firstname.lastname@example.org> <email@example.com> <firstname.lastname@example.org> <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Open Source Consumer Products
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2002 10:34:42 +0100
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NNTP-Posting-Date: 21 Nov 2002 09:35:48 GMT
"Lewin A.R.W. Edwards" wrote in message
> > What's the rationale behind this story then? A VCR is a pretty one-sided
> All consumer products are built with custom parts.
That's simply not true. At best *some* high volume consumer products contain
custom parts. And most IC's in VCR's can be purchased on the world market so
they're not 'custom parts' anyway. Most smaller manufacturers (such as Quad,
Linn, Mark Levinson) use ONLY off-the-shelf parts because they don't have
the resources to design their own IC's. Even Sony is moving more and more
towards COTS parts, such as the C-CUBE MPEG2 decoders in their DVD players
and the Tripath digital amplifier chips in their DVD-receivers. In fact, the
enclosure may the only custom part in the CE applicance.
You simply haven't kept up with technology. In the past, for example,
Philips and Sony designed their own IC's for CD players. Today there are a
myriad of IC manufacturers who build IEC908 decoders, DAC's, servo
controllers and digital filters and even mechanisms. Even Sony and Philips
sell their own IC's on the world market so they're hardly custom parts.
> Therefore an open-source product is either useless (because of
> unavailability of custom parts/difficulty in duplicating them) or too
> expensive (because of using off-the-shelf parts).
> > Anyway, the morale of my story is that most consumer electronics will in
> > future be based on generic parts such as MCU's and DSP's with very few
> By this rationale, all cars in the world will in the future use
> standard wheel nut locations and headlamp bulbs. It isn't going to
But I'm not talking about cars. And yes, if you read about the latest
developments in cars, you'll see similar developments (look for information
on GM's Autonomy fuel cell car).
> It will be cheaper, for the foreseeable future, to use ASICs and
> ASSPs, than general-purpose devices. If it wasn't so, people would be
> using GP devices universally already because of the huge savings in
> training engineers to work with generation n+1 of parts.
And yet they are taking that road, as more and more functionality is
contained in the software of the appliance.
> Upgradability is a positive NON-SELLING point to manufacturers. An
> ASIC-based product for $30 or a high-end-DSP-based product for $90?
> What GUARANTEE do you have that it will even be possible to upgrade
> the $90 product to a future standard? What if today's flash media are
> superseded by 3" DVD-RAM disks? Even if the $90 device has the
> horsepower to decode the new format, it doesn't have the other
> necessary hardware. You simply cannot future-proof a CE product.
> Trying to do so, beyond some some very tight constraints, is expensive
> and pointless. A good case in point is some [brand] modems that were
> sold as being software upgradable for "any future standard" (at a time
> when V.32bis was state of the art). V.32terbo was OK, just a firmware
> upgrade. Well, along came V.FC and they discover that the DSP is too
> slow and the DAA misconfigured for this protocol. So it WASN'T
> upgradable for "any future standard".
For every example you can give, I can cite a dozen examples where software
upgradeabillity has helped the product stave off obsolesence.
And there's another reason: software upgradeabillity will allow
manufacturers to fix mistakes in their products once they're on the market.
If I sell a million cell phones with a software error in it, I may have
saved a couple of dimes by putting in a OTP version instead of a Flash
version but I will lose tens if not hundreds of millions if I have to
replace all those phones.
> And never mind the fact that ASSPs generally have very short lives,
> too. Any open source PC motherboard project, for instance, would be
> unbuildable after 12-18 months, in all probability, because the
> chipset it used would have gone out of production.
> Don't get me wrong, the idea sounds nice, and I for one have no
> interest in seeing all IP locked away inside safes, but the idea that
> this is going to happen in the general case is predicated on all kinds
> of silly assumptions that don't stand up to serious examination.
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