In part 4 of this series of blogs, we were diving in deeper to the new way to create and sell products. It's an open access approach.
The product supplier must also sell, and the new scheme has a new view of sales. It is no longer a distinct company function, but is split between the supplier and the designer. Both participate in making known what is available in their own ways. So is user support, split between designers and suppliers. Both sales and support are augmented by the open-access community of users. The core-four traditional company functions are thus reduced to two and distributed within both of the remaining two.
Companies that are either designers or suppliers can concentrate on their respective functions. They also have a lower start-up barrier, both in complexity of operations and in capital risk. Because the barrier for becoming a supplier is reduced, multiple suppliers might offer a product from a free design. If the suppliers are small, then their relationship is synergistic more than competitive. They would be like commercial Linux suppliers and add value in their packaging, accessories, and supplier services, such as calibration and repair, for those desiring it.
Although there are still traditional companies that continue the H-P-Tek Way (Audio Precision, Inc., a Tek spinoff, is one), for many products the separation between designers and users continues to grow. The market is given an alternative with the new scheme, with a user community based on trust between designers and users, and products differentiated in the marketplace by the replacement of predation with a cooperative and synergistic community orientation.
The flagship precedent is the community which has grown around Linux. Prospective users of such technology are those attracted to a return to the H-P-Tek Way by designers and suppliers. They want open access to information about the products they buy, and they buy them with a different attitude, of technology-sharing, than in the predatory scheme.
The designers initiate a cessation of hostilities by exercising trust in releasing open-source designs with the intent of participation by users in both design refinement and construction. Some will see that and respond in kind to become users. Consequently, the rigid functional boundaries dividing design, supply, and use are reduced through an open sharing activity.
Some characteristics of the open-access scheme are as follows.
- Open access by suppliers and users is made to detailed product information, so that a user or supplier could refine, improve, correct, or in other ways modify the design (just as Linux can be modified), and build, repair, or calibrate units of the design. Most will not, but all can.
- Design optimizes product quality in multiple ways: long product life (decades), adequate reliability, safety, specification margins, and high performance per cost. Design activity can return to the milieu of H-P-Tek in designing the best product for the user, not the most quickly replaceable.
- Replaceable components that are multiple-sourced, legacy parts that persist in the marketplace are emphasized in design. Ultra-small IC packages are avoided whenever possible to ease repair and modification of circuits. If a small soldering iron (such as an 18 W Antex or Weller) cannot be used to remove a part, it is too small. Pin pitches below 0.5 mm are too small for most users to handle. Sockets are used when applicable for ease of diagnosis.
- Minimum use is made of customized or proprietary components. Board layout files are open-access. Magnetic parts construction is based on simplified methods requiring no specialized winding equipment, with detailed build instructions. Software is open-access for programming μCs and FPLDs.
- Designs are modularized to the extent possible so that module mixing and matching increase functional versatility. Because the products are open-sourced, the modules comprising them are also made available from suppliers. The user then has the option of buying a whole working product or subsystems of it to use as “tinker toys.”
- Mechanical packaging is minimized to maximize access to the circuit-boards for calibration, repair, or modification.
- Users are a market niche of people who value a total ownership relationship to the technical products they have.
- Users participate in a user community via a linked chain of Internet websites. As the user community grows, the word about community-driven products spreads, just as Linux spread. Prices can be kept low with adequate supplier margins by not having to pay as much because of distributed engineering and community-driven sales promotion.
- Suppliers profit by the margins in their product sales.
- Designers profit by support of the user and supplier community and by participation in the profits of suppliers.
In the next part of this series of blogs, we will summarize this new approach and consider the consequences.
- Is There a New Way Ahead for Electronics Enterprise? Part 4
- Is There a New Way Ahead for Electronics Enterprise? Part 3
- Is There a New Way Ahead for Electronics Enterprise? Part 2
- Is There a New Way Ahead for Electronics Enterprise? Part 1
- An Instrument on a Chip? A Look Back
- Z Meter on a Chip? Impedance Meter Integration and Readout
- Getting From Scopes to Semiconductor Innovations
- Can We Put Other Instruments on a Chip? Part 2
- ‘Scope on a Chip? Why Not a DAS Onboard?
- Put an Oscilloscope on a Chip: Why Not?