SimplyTronics visited the 2012 Open Hardware Summit (OHS) In New York to gather information about the current status for the Open Hardware movement.
SimplyTronics is interested in developing a sustainable business model that fits Open Hardware in different ways:
- Offering contract manufacturing services to Open Hardware developers. We could manufacture products in US orChinafrom small-volume prototypes to high-volume runs for products making it to retail stores. We could even extend our support to logistics and sales, helping designers getting paid for their creations without worrying about the product while they can move onto designing their next product.
- Developing new Open Hardware projects. We would be deploying company paid resources developing a project and then releasing it as Open Source.
- Propagating existing Open Hardware projects. We could take existing projects and customizing designs to fit our customer needs for manufacturing source or bundling needs and then release all of our files as Open Source too (so anyone could take the files, improve and re-release again continuing the positive Open Source cycle).
Even though SimplyTronics is looking forward to jump into Open Hardware, we want to make sure to do it in a sustainable way. As a business, we need to pay salaries, consulting fees and plenty of taxes to go around, so we are defining the business model that can engage Open Hardware and stay involved for the long run.
During the OHS we heard about many of the advantages of Open Hardware. The most talked about one was how openness pushes technology forward (because Open Hardware designs are public and can be used by anyone to start a new and improved design that will be also released and made public). But we also heard about how the bigger Open Hardware operations had to make some adjustments while growing their business to make sure they can retain and pay for the talent they need to keep hired.
To remain competitive, they need to have staff that can continue improving the product and the product sales should cover for those salaries. In some cases they have to adjust their operations and go “Closed Hardware” for some sections of their designs, which caused some unhappiness with some contributors that had participated (for free) in the original Open Hardware development of the product and were now being left out, without access to the final design files of the released product. The fact that the free contributions were going to be used for generating profit was not taken as bad as the fact that the final files were not going to be shared back to the community.
SimplyTronics’ goal is to define a very clear and sustainable Open Hardware business model up front that doesn’t need to be adjusted as operations grow, preventing any frustration and misunderstandings.
We will be in contact with the Open Source Hardware Association and will try to support this Non-profit entity as much as possible. We are looking forward to OHS 2013 and we will see then how far SimplyTronics was able to get involved in Open Source Hardware.