On the one hand I totally agree with the concepts of open source software and hardware... on the other hand I can well see why someone who has designed something that is capraciously cunning would want to keep it (the design details) for themselves...
Hi Javi -- in your blog you mention hardware, software, and gatewear. It's probably worth noting that -- in this context -- the term "gateware" refers to the data that describes the configuration of an FPGA or similar programmable logic device.
Max magnificently wrote: I can well see why someone who has designed something that is capraciously cunning would want to keep it (the design details) for themselves...
By doing so they miss the opportunity to make the design even better. Chris Taylor of SparkFun explains it very well in this EDN article:
In open source, a lot of that concern comes from wondering "What if someone steals my design?" Well, good, that's kind of the point. Let them steal it. If they can make it better, you can steal it right back and make yours better. That's what makes the product a quality product. Then you design the next cool thing. The information is free, but at SparkFun, the hardware is where we make the money.
Increasingly I am seeing people looking at other peoples implementations and reimplementing them with their own techniques and getting away with it. Thus I think it is better to be open, get first mover advantage and possibly a piece of the other guys pie than to keep your cards close to your chest and be beaten by someone else with more money or a cheaper workforce.
I suspect if open development can set a faster pace to market and/or a lower cost of development it will become a de facto approach. People will have to adopt it or be left with products that are too late or too costly.
But is this speed/cost advantage the case in real practice?
There are as many approaches to Open design licensing as different opportunities exist in the market...
As you say, for a huge company that is able to fully develop its own products from the ground-up, there is not a clear advantage on disclosing any information to the public domain.
But you can build a huge profitable company too by offering services related to open hardware products, just in the same way Red-Hat and others have worked in the software market.
And mostly, open hardware/software is cool for those companies that are not big enough for mantaining a full electronic R&D team: they can reuse well proven open HW/SW components while protecting its own valuable intellectual property.
@Max: "the term "gateware" refers to the data that describes the configuration of an FPGA or similar programmable logic device"
Yes, thank you very much for pointing to that issue. We can say that the gateware is all those design files describing a boolean hardware by means of a Hardware Description Languaje -- VHDL, Verilog...
Gateware is a fuzzy world where you have some properties from the SW and HW realms. i.e., an IP-Core written in VHDL can be used to produce a bitstream, being part of a "software program" for a specific FPGA device, or also to generate an integrated circuit, which clearly is a piece of "silicon/metal/others hardware".
This issue makes developing an Open License for HDL a very difficult task. I can anticipate that CERN-OHL group has started to work in adapting its license for this purpose -- I'll post about this in a few weeks ;-)
@bobdvb: "get first mover advantage and possibly a piece of the other guys pie"
Yes, this is where the real point is. If you want to have a future in the Open-HW/SW world, you must embrace the task of being always a step ahead from your competitors -- in both knowledge and quality!!
@Rick: "I suspect if open development can set a faster pace to market and/or a lower cost of development it will become a de facto approach"
We can say that this is already a de facto approach, but under current development.
If you try to earn your money by only selling hardware products, you are going to get into troubles, no matter how big you are: the profit ratio is diminishing as software solutions gets standardized -- Android, Linux, RTOS...
But if you want to make profit from selling your services and hardware is just a piece of the full puzzle, you can get a lot of advantages by using an open hardware solution. This is the case for services providers such as Facebook, Intel or even Goldman-Sachs, who have joined efforts with many others in the Open Compute Project: having a open-hardware infrastructure in the data center allows for lower prices as it push the competition -- just wait for all those ARM powered servers that are going to be released in 2014 ;-)