TechCrunch: “Arduino exploring India manufacturing to limit counterfeit sales”

Here’s a bit of a follow up from my article “When Open Becomes Opaque: The Changing Face of Open-Source Hardware Companies” – TechCrunch interviewed the CEO of Arduino and provided quotes directly from Arduino about “counterfeit” hardware, we talked about this on ASK an ENGINEER 1/3/24 (time code 14 mins, 9 secs) Arduino exploring India manufacturing to limit counterfeit sales @ TechCrunch

India is the largest market for Arduino IDE downloads, with 3.2 million. The country also has local branches of global Arduino distributors, such as DigiKey, Mouser Electronics and Avnet. However, India’s contribution to its customer base is currently less than 1%. Violante considers fake Arduino boards the key reason for this discrepancy.

It’s my opinion that saying “fake Arduino boards” is confusing things a lot and not helpful for open-source. This is one of the things we’ll see and hear more and more as open-source hardware companies blame “fake” boards.

What Arduino is calling “fake boards” are primarily Arduino-compatibles and clones, not trademark-infringing counterfeits. Blaming low-cost compatibles and assuming it’s a loss of 3.2 million sales since that’s the download count of the IDE is blaming something that is not really happening. There are counterfeits for sure, but that’s very different than hardware that’s compatible with using the Arduino IDE – the large number of downloads for the open-source Arduino IDE is for compatible board-support-packaged hardware like the ESP8266, ESP32, etc. (Unknown if there’s any telemetry data that lets anyone know what hardware is being used with the IDE, just that it’s downloaded, so we’re going with market indicators, projects published, GitHub repos, and shared online).

Conflating clones and compatibles with trademark-infringing counterfeits is something that seems to come up after companies see a dip in sales or have funding which requires moving away from open-source. Arduino has $32 million in funding, and introduced closed-source hardware, “Pro”.

Arduino is looking to address the problem of fake boards globally by making its hardware more sophisticated, which makes it more difficult to counterfeit.

“This is giving us a competitive edge by innovating continuously,” Violante said. “The new boards use more sophisticated microcontrollers, more sophisticated power section that are not easy to copy and paste.”

Making open-source hardware that is “not easy to copy and paste” seems like a departure from what Arduino was, and a departure from open-source hardware / software, & education.

A commenter on the article sums it up.

As your article observes; Arduino boards are open source, all hardware and software design documents are freely available. So calling alternate sources “ripoffs” is prejudicial.

Read more.

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