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Businesses Open Source The Almighty Buck Hardware

13 Open Source Hardware Companies Make $1+ Million 149

Posted by kdawson
from the make-it-up-on-volume dept.
kkleiner writes "Selling products whose design anyone can access, edit, or use on their own is pretty crazy. It's also good business. At the annual hacker conference Foo Camp East this year, Phillip Torrone and Limor Fried from Adafruit Industries gave a rapid fire five-minute presentation on thirteen companies with million+ dollar revenues from open source hardware. The thirteen add up to $50 million this year. While this business model is counter-intuitive for those accustomed to our current patent- and copyright-encrusted system, Torrone and Fried estimate that the industry will reach a billion dollars by 2015."
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13 Open Source Hardware Companies Make $1+ Million

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  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Monday May 10, 2010 @08:49PM (#32164606)

    In the world of hardware there is an enormous difference between the two. You can easily have $1M in revenue and lose your shirt (make a huge loss).

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't apply sound business techniques to the open source discussion.

      That said, what book or books represent the definitive "this is the open source model"?

      • by Cryacin (657549) on Monday May 10, 2010 @10:50PM (#32165368)
        Start by being a billionaire.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jurily (900488)

        Don't apply sound business techniques to the open source discussion.

        Doesn't matter, the open source model only shines when there's an extremely small barrier to entry. Not many users will build their own factory to patch a chip, I'd imagine.

        • Agreed. That's why the comment "Selling products whose design anyone can access, edit, or use on their own is pretty crazy. " from TFA is retarded.

          Of course it also uses "open source" to refer to something other than software, which is also retarded. Is it too much to ask people who are publishing poetry or marmalade recipes to find some other buzzphrase?

    • No kidding (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday May 10, 2010 @11:31PM (#32165572)

      My parents do about $750,000, maybe more, in sales per year in their small business. However they still aren't making a profit. Their expenses are eating it all up. They aren't millionaires and will never become ones this way, despite having sales near a million a year. Business isn't cheap to do. Whatever you think a business should be getting in profits, you have to figure their revenues have to be at least double that, usually much more. For example GE has $154 BILLION in revenues, yet makes only $10 Billion in terms of income available to common.

      Doing a million in sales isn't hard. As I said, my parents near that and they have a small business that more or less sells just to a small tourist city in Canada. Making a million in profit, that's much harder.

      • Re:No kidding (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jake73 (306340) on Monday May 10, 2010 @11:53PM (#32165712) Homepage

        For example GE has $154 BILLION in revenues, yet makes only $10 Billion in terms of income available to common.

        Well, yes. But lots and lots of employees at GE have very comfortable incomes. The company itself may only be making a particular margin, but when you consider the wealth of the employees, things change dramatically.

    • by abigsmurf (919188) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @02:57AM (#32166516)
      I make £20,000 and I still lose my shirt. I really should organise my laundry better...
  • Open Source (Score:1, Funny)

    by sopssa (1498795) *

    How much does proprietary software/hardware make? It's hard to examine, but it's probably more than $50 millions.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      AMD made $5.4 billion last year and Intel made around $35 billion. Each of these companies make more revenue in an hour than the yearly revenue of any of these companies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JackieBrown (987087)

        AMD made $5.4 billion last year and Intel made around $35 billion. Each of these companies make more revenue in an hour than the yearly revenue of any of these companies.

        They also make more than most proprietary software/hardware companies.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          Even ARM, which is significantly smaller than either of those, makes $305 million in revenue. There's nothing impressive about making $1 million in revenue.

          • Out of curiosity, I ran lspci and Google'd a few of the companies that showed up. Marvell had $2.81 billion last year. Ricoh was something like 21 billion. Everything else was large brands like Intel and nVidia.

            I was surprised -- I would've thought ARM would be bigger relative to those.

          • It is for a small start-up, and all these companies are start-ups that have not raised huge amounts of funding - so their ROI could still be pretty good.

          • by Darinbob (1142669)
            Significantly more ARM chips are sold than x86 compatible chips.
            • by Calinous (985536)

              At much lower prices, and much of those prices go to the companies that actually produce them (ARM is an Intelectual Property company)

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          Now if people would get the point of your statement, most of slashdot would have a heart attack and die.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      how much does open source software/hardware make? It's hard to examine, but it's probably more than 50 million.

      way to go with a comment that proved nothing as it also qualifies in the opposite scenario, sopssa.

    • How much does proprietary software/hardware make? It's hard to examine, but it's probably more than $50 millions.

      So Open Source hardware is favoured by smaller, newer and more nimble companies, while proprietary systems are favoured by big monolitic industries.

      Great deducting there Sherlock...

  • by Stiletto (12066) on Monday May 10, 2010 @08:57PM (#32164664)

    You know, Dr. Evil, a million dollars isn't exactly a lot of money these days. Virtucon alone makes over nine billion dollars a year!

  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Monday May 10, 2010 @08:57PM (#32164668)
    $50 million today => $1 billion in 5 years! You'd have to be crazy not to invest EVERY PENNY YOU OWN in these companies!
  • By making your hardware more accessible, you are increasing your product's value for your users.

    Of course, this works better if you only expect revenue from the sale of hardware units and don't rely heavily on revenue from providing some form of subscription service or software sales.

    I believe this is a good thing. Hardware *should* be open. I long for the old days when we could come up with new ways to use our bare hardware.

    Open source improves this not by "forcing" manufacturers to be open, but by lowe

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      on paper open source hardware should be awesome, however it pretty much universally sucks. they always focus on the open sourceness of it, and forget it's a product meant to fill a need. they also can't use any patented technology, meaning they usally have to go for tech with the sophistication of gadgets built in soviet russia during the cold war.
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by poetmatt (793785)

        do you have an actual argument here or are you just ranting against open source concepts? Open source can use patented software if they so choose, first off. Second, even Microsoft declares themselves open source (even if obviously false), although they claim that the MS-PL is open source (and codeforge or whatever their version is called). Are you saying MS also uses tech from the cold war?

        it'd sure explain plenty of things.

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          Second, even Microsoft declares themselves open source (even if obviously false), although they claim that the MS-PL is open source (and codeforge or whatever their version is called).

          0/10. Poor troll is poor.

      • Well actually I was talking about saving money on per-seat runtime licenses, or not having to roll their own boot strap.

        I never mentioned patents, since I thought it was pretty much obvious to anyone that just because they used open source tools and/or operating systems for their products, it doesn't necessarily mean that they can't use patented technology. Hence my comment about not forcing the manufacturer to be open.

        However, this is rarely a problem with hardware manufacturers because they're in the bu

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by clarkkent09 (1104833) *
      By making your hardware more accessible, you are increasing your product's value for your users.

      Sure you do (especially for Bill_the_Engineer, not so much for Bill_the_Average_person_clueless_about_technology) but the question is will you bring more return in for your investors than with closed hardware. More to the point, can you convince your investors to pony up for R&D up front, while knowing that as soon as your product is out, $LARGE_CORP can copy it and sell it for less because it doesn't have
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Let me tell you about my experience with OSH ... I go download the plans, run to my local machine shop, machine the parts for my own CNC machine and cobble it together for half the price of the version I can 'buy'.

      Then I proceed to use it to make other OSH projects.

      The problem with OSH is that the people who give a shit about it being open are just going to build it themselves and not bother buying anything from you.

      • Well evidently someone's making money. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a story to comment on...
        • by Bassman59 (519820)

          Well evidently someone's making money. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a story to comment on...

          The other side to this story is that the open-source hardware which is the basis of this story is little more than gadgetry. They are not products, they are just for a tiny hacker market who like shiny things they can play with.

          Besides, why buy an Arduino board when I can buy a Silicon Labs development board for less money and get more features?

      • by JuzzFunky (796384)

        The problem with OSH is that the people who give a shit about it being open are just going to build it themselves and not bother buying anything from you.

        In some cases this is true. However, there are other factors that come into it.
        I own a couple of arduinos. Even though I have the skills to build one and I suppose it would be a bit of fun to do so, I chose to buy them. Why? For me, the biggest limitation is time. I have so many crazy ideas, and there is so little time! I bought each of my arduinos for a specific project. I prefer to spend my limited time on the projects themselves rather than building an arduino. I can buy the parts for an arduin

        • by tibman (623933)

          Lately i've been using the Ardweeny from solarbotics: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/kardw/ [solarbotics.com]

          It's only 10$ and very quick to assemble. It felt wasteful using a full size arduino in a permanent project, so i moved to these. You just need an FTDI cable to do the programming.. it's just a special usb cable. Being able to shave 20$ off each of your projects is worth it. Not to mention the space savings. The only way to get cheaper/smaller is to use a naked chip (imo).

      • by 2short (466733)
        I also am working on my own CNC project. Where did you get the controllers for your stepper motors? You could etch the boards yourself, and source the components individually, but only for many times the price of the version you can buy. I bought mine from SparkFun Electronics. The fine article says they have 10+ million in revenue. They certainly have a continually expanding number of steadily employed geeks a little way up the road from me. So business-model wise they seem to be doing fine. But i
        • by BitZtream (692029)

          Mine came from digikey, well actually spare parts I had that came from digikey ...

          I originally planned to order 3 from sparkfun myself, but realizing the ones they had weren't really powerful enough for what I wanted and that I'd be far happier with one board instead of 3, I threw my together with spare parts I cobbled together.

          I actually made the stepper controllers without using anyone elses reference design.

          You're right though, I certainly was going to buy that component from sparkfun, but the software s

    • By making your hardware more accessible, you are increasing your product's value for your users.

      Of course, this works better if you only expect revenue from the sale of hardware units and don't rely heavily on revenue from providing some form of subscription service or software sales.

      I believe this is a good thing. Hardware *should* be open. I long for the old days when we could come up with new ways to use our bare hardware.

      The vast majority of users of consumer electronics DO NOT CARE about hacking the products they buy. Not at all. They just want the devices to work as indicated on the tin. Remember for every geek who wants to hack an iPod, there's a million people who just want to play songs. The open-hardware "market" is insignificant.

      Open source improves this not by "forcing" manufacturers to be open, but by lowering the production costs and lessens the need to offset very large initial investments during the production run with secondary revenue streams.

      Adding the capability for user programming increases costs. Using user-modifiable parts, which one might take to mean that instead of the smallest possible SMT, the design is implemented usin

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday May 10, 2010 @09:09PM (#32164734)
    I don't really see the growth factor for open source hardware. Yeah, its great if you are a geek, but if you aren't... why bother? Most open source hardware projects are designed for people to program. I see things like Android becoming popular, open enough to do most things you want, but still polished. Yeah, I like being able to program obscure assembly commands to a CPU to make it do odd things, but I like things to work without having to spend hours setting them up. So while I don't think things are going to shrink, I think that the number of geeks really aren't increasing enough to expand the market.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Back in the day companies gave away reference designs for their new components, and companies often simply added software to these reference designs to specialize their products. The Tandy Color Computer was a chip-for-chip reference design created by Motorola. The Colecovision was a chip-for-chip reference design from Texas Instruments. These reference designs were zero-cost, modifiable and distributable.

      How much different is a freely-distributable reference design schematic with open source DL? It isn't i

      • by Bassman59 (519820)

        Back in the day companies gave away reference designs for their new components, and companies often simply added software to these reference designs to specialize their products. The Tandy Color Computer was a chip-for-chip reference design created by Motorola. The Colecovision was a chip-for-chip reference design from Texas Instruments. These reference designs were zero-cost, modifiable and distributable.

        How much different is a freely-distributable reference design schematic with open source DL? It isn't if you think of the chip as a circuit board in miniature and the OSS HDL as a code for a schematic. Of course, that users of the unprogrammed chips have to do the reference design themselves, rather than receiving it gratis from the manufacturers is beyond me...

        Oh yeah, I forgot: monetize what was once free or stockholders get angry.

        You seem to forget that back in the day, getting a PCB made for these products was a significant expense. Free (as in beer) schematic and PCB layout tools did not exist -- in fact, PCBs were designed by hand using rubylith. There were no quick-turn PCBs fabs like Advanced Circuits who'd take Gerbers and send back a handful of boards for $10 each in three days.

        So while the electronics design was basically from the chip vendors, there was still a significant effort and expense in packaging. Don't forget that

    • I don't really see the growth factor for open source hardware.

      What? You mean corporate management teams aren't convinced by this article? Nintendo isn't considering open sourcing the Wii hardware and software and letting all their competitors undercut them with identical systems that will play the same titles? I'm shocked!

    • The average person gets everything the programmers created, and mostly for free. That is quite different from a closed environment, that few programmers adopt and fewer yet will develop to. As Balmer once said, "Developpers, developpers, developpers!" (One can say that MS does know how to run a business.)

  • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Monday May 10, 2010 @09:09PM (#32164736)

    That's great and all but how much profit are they making on that $50 million in revenue?

  • Revenue vs. Profit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MikeDataLink (536925)
    Doing a million dollars in REVENUE is simple. Just about any company can bring in a million dollars in revenue.

    The question is, can they pay their people, their suppliers, their advertisers, etc and then MAKE A PROFIT from that revenue? That's the hard part for ANY business.
    • Doing a million dollars in REVENUE is simple. Just about any company can bring in a million dollars in revenue.

      The exception is when it's a company we don't like. Then you're allowed to take the revenue figure totally out of context and shout "OMG heevul profitearing corpra$$$$hunz11One!!!". and get totally modded up.

  • by alen (225700) on Monday May 10, 2010 @09:14PM (#32164776)

    RAM, blu-ray, LTO backup tapes, WiFi and others

    in all cases many companies come together, pool their patents to create a standard and share the profits since every product sold puts money into the industry pool to be doled out to its members. The model even predates Linux, since that's how VCR's were sold. the profits go back into research that is pooled into another patent pool for the next generation product.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by braeldiil (1349569)
      To be perfectly clear, that model predates electricity, since that's how sewing machines were first sold (1856). Honestly, these aren't new issues. Patent thickets have been around almost as long as patents, as have the solutions.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)

      the profits go back into research that is pooled into another patent pool for the next generation product.

      ...that is closely kept behind barriers to prevent any newcomer to trouble this cycle of profits with these pesky "innovations"

  • Open source has been called a 'virus' by the traditional copyright establishment.

    It might be more accurately be called an alternate operating system, running concurrently, that the existing OS is recognizing as a virus.

    And yes, that is a Voyager reference.

    • by DrLang21 (900992)
      I'm not sure about "open source", but I have heard the GPL called a virus before. I can actually see the argument for that.
  • by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerte.gmail@com> on Monday May 10, 2010 @09:16PM (#32164788)

    Their products are amazing. In case you are not familiar, Mark Spencer and crew are the guys behind Asterisk, the best PBX ever. Their hardware business is actually pretty big, and they also provide asterisk-related services, including training and support.

    Considering that 20% of all PBXs in use are Asterisk-based, I thought it was worth mentioning it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EdIII (1114411)

      That's not what open source hardware means.

      open source hardware (OSHW). Companies providing OSHW allow all designs of the products to be shared through an open license, meaning that everyone is free to download, modify, and share all the schematics and associated software.

      Asterisk, which I agree is completely awesome, is just some open source software you can run on Linux, an open source operating system.

      Open source hardware would be a router in which you can modify the firmware (software) to suit your need

      • by ewieling (90662)
        The original (first gen) Digium cards were based on the Zapata cards. Digium stopped producing those cards years ago. See http://www.zapatatelephony.org/ [zapatatelephony.org] for more information on the open source hardware design. It appears that many of the original "clones" of the Digium cards are also based on the Zapata design. I don't know about the current "clone" cards.
        • by EdIII (1114411)

          I was not referring to the telephony cards, but the base system itself. Motherboards, processors, etc.

    • by ClosedSource (238333) on Monday May 10, 2010 @10:53PM (#32165392)

      Their hardware isn't open source.

      • It's true, the hardware itself isn't exactly open right now, but it's an evolution over previously free hardware. That is, the Zapata project was extensively funded by Digium, and Zapata hardware was openly published. Today, Digium hardware isn't open, but all the specs are and so are the drivers. So, it's trivial to develop compatible hardware. There are actually several companies that produce and sell compatible hardware, like Sangoma. Mark wrote several important Free Software, including Asterisk and Gai

        • I don't dispute that they use "free" software, just not hardware. Their primary business model is to sell interface cards or turnkey systems. That's why they purchased Switchvox a few years ago.

  • A billion dollars is not a big number, and not really worthy of tooting ones horn over. Are you kidding me? And 50 million dollars for an industry isn't even enough to launch a magazine over. Wow.

    • by agrif (960591)

      A billion dollars is not a big number, and not really worthy of tooting ones horn over. Are you kidding me? And 50 million dollars for an industry isn't even enough to launch a magazine over. Wow.

      Yep. Sure isn't. [makezine.com] (and yes, I know this is not quite what you meant. I couldn't resist!)

      and I think that everyone here is missing the point. It's not "wow, $50 million? that's a big industry!" It's more "wow, $50 million? OS hardware is growing fast from the ~$0 from about 5 years ago." And FYI, SparkFun Electronics [sparkfun.com], one of the companies listed, makes more than $10 million in annual revenue, which is some serious growth for one company in a new field. Couple that with sheer awesome, and you get a powerful c

  • You just know someone's out there thinking it. It's easier to sue open-source, since all the stuff is out there, exposed. Too bad closed source won't play by the same rules.
    • by snikulin (889460)

      For what? For 1 Mil? You are funny!

  • Just for a little perspective - a $1M revenue company is a teeny-tiny company. We're talking mom and pop stores in a strip mall here. $1M in revenue is not hard to achieve - in fact if you don't care about profits it is very easy to achieve. (A business selling $2 bills for $1 will have all the revenue they can handle but will also be incredibly unprofitable) When these companies make $1M in profits, I'll be significantly more impressed. If you ever look at magazines like Inc [inc.com] they will always quote re

  • by BitZtream (692029)

    I've worked at companies with 3 employees and multi million dollar years that still went out of business. $1M/Year revenue isn't impressive unless you still live in the 50s

    Heres a better example, I can give you a company with a nearly infinate revenue stream.

    Put out a 'bill changer' machine. It takes $20s and gives back $50s.

    I promise you as long as I can fill it with $50s, no one one the planet will have higher revenues than me. Of course that doesn't mean the business is viable, but it WILL have kick a

    • by edmudama (155475)

      While the concept is legitimate, your machine would have to spit out 250 bills/second to equal WalMart's revenue ($400B)

    • Put out a 'bill changer' machine. It takes $20s and gives back $50s.

      Whether or not that's profitable depends on which countries' dollars your machine handles. I wonder if any company has tried vending machine-style foreign currency exchange.

  • by Bender_ (179208)

    Growing from $50m to $1B in five years would mean that the market for open sources increases twentyfold in just five years. OSS has been around since the 80ies, OSS companies have been around since the nineties. So it took 15 years for the market to grow to $50m, why on earth should it increase twentyfold in just five measly years? Like many analysts, he is just making up numbers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by JorDan Clock (664877)
      This is Open Source Hardware not Open Source Software. A completely different industry, with completely different numbers to make up.
  • I can believe that just being able to prove that a company in fact created an open source hardware design-or made a major contribution to its design, is enough to garner it significant business.

    One problem with closed source designs, is that you may be buying from a company where the original creators are all gone. Open source hardware can help contain that possibility.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday May 10, 2010 @09:59PM (#32165076) Journal

    Not counterintutive for anybody who is, well... a little bit older. There. Said it. Now that that's out of the way, let us hearken to the days when TV sets had SCHEMATIC DIAGRAMS printed on the inside of the box. This was so that guys called "repair men" could actually fix these "valuable devices". Furthermore, while most consumers couldn't tell heads or tails from the schematics, they could at least unplug the tubes and take them to the drugstore and test them, to see if it was as simple as a worn-out tube.

    No, I'm not that old. I was a little kid when all this was still going on, and even then it was fading fast. Still though, I have vivid memories of it all. It made quite an early impression on my budding geek mind.

    If computer hardware gets back to that, it would be a welcome regression to the mean. Throughout most of history, you could generally understand most of the components in a device, or at least understand the relationships between the black boxes well enough to make repairs.

    Anyway, the companies that made these "open source" devices throughout history did just fine. They prospered because most people don't have time to understand a schematic or source and integrate all the parts themselves. They'd rather pay somebody else to do that.

    • The difference is that an individual couldn't really use the schematic to clone the TV. Even if you could locate all the same parts and put them together, it still might not work because of the tolerance of the analog parts. You had to tweak things to get it right.

      You just can't compare the analog and digital worlds.

      • by istartedi (132515)

        The difference is that an individual couldn't really use the schematic to clone the TV

        No, you couldn't use the schematic to fab a picture tube or any of the other "black box" components; but there's always that point where "in order to make a cake from scratch you have to reinvent the universe".

        If you really had a craving for the circuit in a particular Zenith set, I bet you could have indeed cloned it from readily available components. I don't consider buying a picture tube from Zenith cheating.

        I wager

        • Tweaking Linux configuration options is a lot different than bending wires around. Wires break after repeated attempts, config files don't.

    • by hackerjoe (159094)

      This is actually still the way it works for many higher-value items. It's not always the manufacturer that offers the information, but sites like PowerBook Medic [powerbookmedic.com] give disassembly instructions and sell part so you can do simple repairs yourself. Some laptop keyboards can be replaced with just a pen knife!

      The components are still modular, it's just the idea of what makes a component that's changed. Now it's an entire mainboard assembly with a transistor count in the billions, rather than a single tube.

      Also, I

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)

      They were that way because they could be. These days it just isn't useful or feasible. You still can get circuit diagrams and parts lists for some items, but generally there's no point. The reason is the complexity and density. ICs are a boon for electronics overall, but they are impossible to repair. If an IC dies, that's it, it's gone, you are screwed. Also the boards themselves are much harder to deal with. Surface mount electronics with extremely tiny spacing, multiple layers of traces, etc.

      More or less

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      As you said, the schematics were there so repair men could fix the box when it was (frequently) broken. They were not there so the repair man could make design changes. Many (most) of those schematics had the word 'patented' on them, which specifically meant you could NOT use the schematic to create a clone, or even to make modifications. They also had the word 'copyright' on them, which meant no making copies for anyone else. TV development was full of patent fights and lawsuits. It is in no way corre

      • by swordgeek (112599)

        ...which specifically meant you could NOT use the schematic (...) to make modifications."

        Um...no. You could legally modify your TV at will, but the warranty would no longer apply. Possibly your insurance wouldn't cover you in case a faulty (modified) device burnt down the house, but there weren't legal restraints on what you could do with the device.

    • Considering most early personal computers did include schematics, and various appendixes of technical information for expansion, including the original IBM PC XT.
      ( ref 1 [macintouch.com], IBM PC Technical Reference Manual [wikipedia.org], ref 2).

  • $$$ and Sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@gmail. c o m> on Monday May 10, 2010 @10:37PM (#32165264)
    And hundreds of companies make much more off the fruits of OSS 'labor'.
  • by John Pfeiffer (454131) on Monday May 10, 2010 @10:56PM (#32165408) Homepage

    ...what in the HELL is with these comments? A lot of these people either seem to have their heads up their asses, or are just jerks.

    Sure, a million bucks isn't a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, and may not be huge by small business standards... But for fuck's sake people, we're talking about companies consisting of-- on average --just a couple of people. People JUST LIKE US. In fact, they ARE some of us! If YOU made a million dollars in a year, wouldn't it be a pretty big deal?

    With the world economy in the toilet and still goin' round an' round, tiny companies like these making decent money selling open source gadgets and whatnot IS a big deal.

    Yes, revenue isn't profit, as many have pointed out. But I'll bet you anything, these people are doing fine, which isn't exactly something we can all say, now is it? Sparkfun? Sure, they're not really tiny like the rest, they have facilities and staff and all that, but still... Wanna know how they're doing? They gave away $100,000 worth of free stuff a while back, and I'll bet everyone's still got their jobs and can afford to eat.

    These are people just like us, and they're pioneering the new way to design, manufacture, and sell electronics. Opensource hardware is even going to change the consumer side of the equation. Making people smarter about the things they buy, and making the consumer take up a more participatory role. It's another step in the democratization of technology.

    Here's hoping we bring up the next generation wanting to build and create more things than they buy off the shelf. And here's hoping my name will show up in a similar presentation in the not-too-distant future!

    • If YOU made a million dollars in a year, wouldn't it be a pretty big deal?

      Yeah, but if my business model left me making that same amount after 5 or 10 years, I wouldn't brag about it. Particularly if I had a product like Arduino, who makes some really sexy OSH development kits.

      • "Yeah, but if my business model left me making that same amount after 5 or 10 years, I wouldn't brag about it."

        Why? If you made a million a year for 10 years in a row, why wouldn't you be proud of it? (Assuming you did want to make money, to begin with.)

        Ok, GE wouldn't want to buy you. So what?

        • Proud isn't bragging.

          I'd be proud of myself, yes, but, I wouldn't brag to the press about how profitable OSH development is. They would, yes, laugh at me.

          OSH represents a niche market. If you can get your product into the embedded or repackaged as a final product, you're talking about the same niche, but in high volume. That's something to brag to the press about.

    • by westlake (615356)

      Yes, revenue isn't profit, as many have pointed out. But I'll bet you anything, these people are doing fine, which isn't exactly something we can all say, now is it?

      If you are making decent money, why not just say so?

      Talk about hourly wages, salaries and benefits. Dividends. Profits. Return on investment. Access to credit.

      These are people just like us, and they're pioneering the new way to design, manufacture, and sell electronics.

      Is this the "new" way or simply the old way - "Popular Science" circa 1910,

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by johngineer (1647577)
        I'm sure they would have gone in to greater detail, given the opportunity. They had 5 minutes in which to present this talk, and it had to be wide-enough in scope to cover the whole industry while still remaining coherent. And yes this probably is, in some ways at least, the "new" old way of pre-war PopSci, but there is nothing wrong with that. Farming isn't a "new" idea either, but that doesn't mean it's not still a good one. Because really what it is about is empowering your consumers through education.
      • by ptorrone (638660) * <pt@@@adafruit...com> on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:48AM (#32170138)

        hi, i'm phil, from the video. it wasn't clear that the OSHW movement is making money? the title of presentation and the post has an actual number in it.

        i work for adafruit and make magazine - i don't think it makes sense to scan in each company's tax returns, but generally speaking... most/all the companies listed are making money. decent money, many full time employees, benefits, bonuses, profit sharing - great ROI, access to credit and VC. keep in mind they were very kind to share any revenue numbers and over the last couple years there has been a recession, yet all these companies have thrived.

        OSHW should be celebrated here on /. - it's a dream come true and many of the people doing it are following their dreams.

        it's too bad many of the people here do not have any aspirations "making" anything besides trolly comments on /.

    • by migla (1099771)

      A million dollars should be more than enough for anybody.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thijsh (910751)
      You know exactly what this is about. Have you also seen the comments that 'revenue is not profit', such a negative Wall street attitude. The first thing I thought was: 'wow, so consumers now spend millions on open source hardware', it just means the market is there and is growing so it's a great thing... Figuring out how to make a good profit is well understood business practice and easily achievable if there is a demand so it's hardly the most interesting question...

      Cheers for the democratization of tech
    • I'm in agreement with you, and I wanted to point out something else along those lines. The article stated, "At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the open paradigm is changing the way the world works." The open paradigm isn't changing how the world works. This *is* the way the world works. One look at life and we will see copying, reuse and improve all over the place. Right now some in business are collaborating because they can. But eventually, we'll collaborate because we have to. Some problems (envi
    • by extrasolar (28341)

      Hear hear!

    • by Jthon (595383)

      Because 1 million in Revenue (sales) isn't a big deal. I have a cousin who owns a small restaurant which primarily sells hotdogs (yes hotdogs). His small business has ~1 million in sales annually but after expenses he's lucky to break even.

      All this article seems to say is that if you do open source hardware, you can make as much as a small restaurant per year in revenue! Which really isn't so impressive. Now if they had a 1+ million profit I'd be more impressed.

  • Why is everyone comparing these OSH companies to huge international tech companies? These small upstarts aren't providing schematics for the next desktop CPU. They are simply selling kits and schematics for electronics/hacker/maker gadgets. This is the next evolution of Heathkits and Radio Shack's better days. These companies aren't really trying to compete with the giants of the tech industry. The purpose is to act as an enabler for tinkerers, hobbyists, and crafters.

    After years of ignoring hobbyist e

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