06 June 2008

Open Hardware is...Hard

The Economist does one of its periodic "what's going on in that wacky world of open source" pieces, mercifully not as fundamentally flawed as earlier ones. This is about open hardware (OpenMoko, Chumby, Bug Labs, RepRap), and why it's, er, hard:

In addition to publishing all the software code for a device, for example, makers of open-source hardware generally reveal the physical information needed to build a device, including schematics, materials and dimensions. This is not something manufacturers normally do, and takes time and effort. Supplying open-source hardware is necessarily, therefore, more time-consuming and complex. “It can’t be as simple as open-source software,” says Peter Semmelhack, the founder of Bug Labs, a company based in New York that sells open-source hardware modules to put into other devices. “It has chips, schematics and things coming from many sources.” And suppliers of those many parts are not always interested in going open source, which further complicates matters. OpenMoko tries to use chips with open specifications, says Mr Moss-Pultz, though some chipmakers are reluctant to play along. “It’s like they’re taking their pants off in public,” he says.

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