In part 5 of this series, we started looking at a new marketplace philosophy. The intent was to remove the antagonistic feelings that can arise between designer and user. This follows the model established by companies like H-P (when it was a test equipment manufacturer). The idea is to create an open-source environment where a product's design can be refined.
If designs are given away, one might ask, how are the designers compensated for their efforts? In theory, they would be starving, but Linus Torvalds (the primary software developer of Linux) is not starving in Finland. In fact, he is living in Beaverton, Ore., the hometown of Tektronix. Has Torvalds made as much off Linux as Bill Gates has from Windows? Of course not. Neither is he short of a lifetime of consulting and training requests for designing a single (though large) product and giving it away. Designers can also be suppliers if they choose, or they can collaborate with a supplier. This might be the preferred route to designer recompense.
In the community technology setup, nobody becomes very rich, but everybody benefits from the positive relationships among designers, suppliers, and users. This synergism has potential that should not be underestimated. Linux now threatens the monopoly operating system, though it did not originate as a competitive product in a traditional company. As a few astute users make design refinements that are posted to the community, designs evolve to a highly refined state that can last for a long time. Such product stability increases overall efficiency; those using stable products need not expend as much in overhead developing their tool base for such products.
Community-based technology is already here and growing in seminal form. One example is Red Pitaya, which is participating with its generic instrument board. Various microcomputer boards such as the Arduino and Stamp have caught on and have a growing user base. (DesignSpark, a website promoting open-access technology, offers downloads of open-source hardware and software licenses.) One possible direction of instrument expansion is to develop add-on modules for popular μCs. The user community for them is an accessible market. In the past, there were user communities for VAX and other minicomputers, as well as for Volkswagen Beetles. Nowadays there are communities for Tek and H-P old equipment users and for various microcomputer modules, led by the open-access Arduino.
In effect, the community setup is an extension of the H-P-Tek Way in that it extends participation in product design, construction, and use from the designer to the supplier and even the user. Linux has benefited immensely by having the world's largest design support base in its user community. Why not do this for electronics?
- Is There a New Way Ahead for Electronics Enterprise? Part 5
- 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?