Monday, November 30, 2009

Open-Source Hardware?

As per this Wall Street Journal article, a company named Arduino has create a small microcontroller board, the schematics of which are freely available online. The two-man Italian company has gone from selling 34,000 of the $30 microcontrollers last year to a forecasted 60,000 microcontrollers this year. Other open source hardware projects of note include Chumby and Bug.

Personally, I wonder what the open-source hardware scene will really accomplish over time. Will it flourish as much as open-source software? Will it create as much innovation and competition as open-source software? Not being a hardware engineer, I can't speak with any authority. However, I doubt very highly that it will come close to the effects that open-source software has had on the world. Anyone can install software, however not just anyone can take advantage of circuit board schematics. The pool of potential project creators and contributors is drastically smaller. However the pool of potential consumers of products based on open-source hardware could conceivably be larger than that of open-source software. Interesting points to ponder.

Does anyone have experience with the open-source hardware "movement"? Any thoughts on the subject would be appreciated.

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