Last week, the New York Hall of Science played host to the Open Hardware Summit, a gathering that drew a diverse mix of people from academia, the art community, and companies ranging from startups to Texas Instruments. Open Hardware may not have had the success of its software cousin when it comes to acceptance and recognition, but there was a lot more going on in the community than I would have expected going in to the meeting, and a lot of different reasons the people present chose to go the Open Hardware route.
Over the course of the day, two basic rationales for going open became apparent. For the larger businesses, open hardware creates a business opportunity, as an open design can drive sales of their main products—even if a competitor takes a board design and runs with it, the company can still come out ahead if it means sales of related products. For smaller companies, the openness of hardware can mean sales to a community of hobbyists and hackers that’s much larger than most people realize.
Limor Fried of adafruit added two additional reasons that open hardware worked for her company despite the competition. The first was that, as a small shop, it’s been unable to keep some of its more popular products in stock at times—with the plans available, they end up with a few less dissatisfied customers. When the company’s documents help a hobbyist put something together themselves, it often creates a loyal customer.
But her closing thought was that imitation really was a form of flattery. They fact that someone felt a design was worth using really told her that her work was on the right track. “You know,” she said, “there are no Zune knockoffs for sale on Canal Street.”
Adafruit has had paid day off for voting for our team for years, if you need help getting that going for your organization, let us know – we can share how and why we did this as well as the good results. Here are some resources for voting by mail, voting in person, and some NY resources for our NY based teams as well. If there are additional resources to add, please let us know – adafruit.com/vote
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