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Re: If you really want Free firmware...

Chasecreek Systemhouse writes:

> On 14 Dec 2004 09:03:20 -0500, Michael Poole <mdpoole@troilus.org> wrote:
> > Hardware design has very different and higher third-party costs than
> > software design, and the cost to make and test minor revisions can be
> > a significant fraction of the cost to do the initial build.  As long
> > as that is true, free hardware is not possible on the same scale as
> > free software or with many of its benefits.
> Those costs exist mainly, IMHO, because the general public doesn't
> have wide spread manufacturing like Linux developers do with regard to
> software development.

Well, yeah.  Have you priced out a quarter micron fab lately or looked
at price lists for multi-layer PCB manufacturing equipment?

The general public doesn't have widespread electronics manufacturing
because the up-front and operating costs are both orders of magnitude
above what you need for software, and because (again) a minor tweak of
hardware involves disproportionately more cost than a minor tweak of

> Personally I'm not buying it.  Hardware costs what it does for the
> same reasons as software -- to advance the state of the art and to
> create better hardware (or software as the case may be.)

I have been on the design teams for an ASIC and a full system that
required custom PCI boards.  I have a reasonably accurate idea about
the manufacturing costs for hardware, and those costs are all my email
talked about.  I ignored the design and testing costs, since free
software has shown that you can amortize them across users.  The
manufacturing and distribution cost for software, on the other hand,
can be effectively driven to zero.

When the cost to produce an existing third-party design (making no
changes) is five or six figures, there is not much reason to freely
license whole designs.  That cost is not your own labor: it is what
you need to pay the companies who own fabs or PCB mills to build your
design.  The economics demand added value.  That is why opencores.org
deals with logic cores and proto boards rather than retail products.

Michael Poole

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