So far there's a lot of smoke around the DIY movement, Maker Faire, and low-cost prototyping tools like 3D printers and Raspberry Pi boards. It's too soon to tell how much commercial fire will emerge from this smoke.
It's absolutely great that an engineering-flavored popular culture is coalescing around Maker Faire and other elements of the DIY movement. This is a natural counter balance to years of a popular culture that said people who liked science and engineering were nerd and geeks, fueled mainly by people who didn’t understand science and engineering and feared those who did.
“I’ve been a ‘maker’ for many years and am passionate about the exciting possibilities of technology and what can be created with it -- so I applaud the DIY and Maker movement," said Krzanich in Rome.
Intel's Brian Krzanich announced Quark at IDF in September.
Here, here. Such comments are long overdue from a US tech CEO. The DIY and Maker movements hopefully will fuel a rise in proud STEM students in the US This alone will have long term commercial implications.
Putting a little bit of his money where his mouth is, Krzanich said Intel will donate 50,000 of the boards to 1,000 universities over the next 18 months. Of course this benevolence fuels understanding of the x86 by future project managers who will be more likely to choose it for commercial projects down the road, so it's a calculated investment.
There are other interesting possibilities. The emergence of low-cost 3D printers, development boards, and open-source software opens the door to anyone with some smarts and a credit card designing products that could have the commercial impact of an Apple iPhone -- or at least a Microsoft Zune. That's a lot of potential -- far too much for any chip or board vendor to ignore -- even if almost all of it so far is still unrealized.
We are not yet at an era of the everyman engineer. Massive supply chains such as the one Apple and Foxconn have assembled stand between the garage hobbyist and the shelf at Best Buy. The road is very, very long between some open-source code on an Arduino board wrapped up in a 3D-printed plastic case and a robust product available for sale globally in shimmering brushed aluminum.
That said, things are changing. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are pouring the kerosene of cash into garage products, turning them quickly into substantial startups.
The drive toward lowest cost is another powerful force. The sub-$100, even sub-$50 DIY boards can do some pretty amazing things these days. Many apps don't need much more than that and a connection to the cloud. People love free, even if it completely undermines some very useful business models.
So if I were Brian Krzanich I would stand on the Maker Faire Rome stage and sing the praises of Arduino, too. But in the private confines of the Intel board room and on a quarterly conference call with Wall Street I would still be talking about volume sales of servers and desktops for the foreseeable future -- and watching very closely what comes out of those hundred thousand garages.