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Subject: Re: How to get them to manufacture for us: An idea and a draft

Re: How to get them to manufacture for us: An idea and a draft

From: roland <>
Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2004 23:03:30 +0100

damn, this is great!

perhaps some more advantages from a "user perspective" could be added to make clear, what powerful combination a "low cost hardware
mp3 player" and a "highliy sophisticated opensource firmware" are and what advantage this means for the end user.
all in all, i`m really like your idea!


----- Original Message -----
From: "David H. Straayer" <>
To: "Rockbox Development" <>
Sent: Sunday, March 21, 2004 8:49 PM
Subject: How to get them to manufacture for us: An idea and a draft

> Ok, several of you have taken to the idea of soliciting Asian
> manufacturers to make players for Rockbox.
> My idea is this: let's work on a magazine article for placement
> in design magazines in Asia. The article is likely to welcomed
> by the editors of these magazines, and it will get to the target
> audience we'd like to reach.
> I've done a (very crude) first draft of such an article, below.
> Let's pass it around and comment on it. I'll dredge through my
> old notes, and Google around to try to find placement for it.
> What do you think?
> David H. Straayer
> 916.729.4954
> Draft follows:
> Title: Open-source Comes to Consumer Electronics
> Open-source software has had a substantial impact on the
> computer market, but has not yet had much impact on the consumer
> electronics market.
> That may be about to change.
> An international team of open-source software writers has
> entirely re-written, from the "ground up", a new set of firmware
> called "Rockbox" for a popular hard-disk-based MP3 player, the
> Archos. Actually, the team has come up with versions of the
> firmware for several different models of the Archos.
> Hard-disk based MP3 players are becoming very popular, with
> Apple's IPod being a smash hit. Apple is well known for
> innovative and user-friendly products, and their proprietary
> approach has enabled them to maintain higher margins than the
> norm for the electronics industry. Of course, those higher
> margins translate into higher prices for the consumer.
> Software in consumer electronics
> As consumer electronics products get increasingly complex,
> software/firmware plays an increasing part in their design. But
> the skills necessary for software and user interface design are
> different from the skills necessary for high-volume manufacture.
> This has lead to a dichotomy between "design houses" and
> "manufacturing specialists", the latter primarily on the Pacific
> Rim.
> This means that the manufacturing specialists often had to team
> up with other companies, who supply designs, software, and
> marketing for their products. This meant smaller margins for
> the manufacturers.
> But the open-source movement and the Internet may be changing
> all that. In order to put a hot hard-disk-based MP3 player on
> the market, it is now possible to design to a standard
> hardware-software interface, load free open-source software on
> the product, and sell it via Internet, or small distributors in
> target markets.
> Advantages of the open-source approach
> Here are some of the key advantages of this approach:
> 1. No software/firmware development costs. Obviously a big plus
> 2. No worry about costly bug fixes and firmware support. As
> long as the product is based on a re-writable store, like flash
> memory or hard disk, the only code that needs to be "rock solid"
> is the "boot loader" that gets the firmware in place and
> running. The open-source community will ensure t hat the
> software is maintained.
> 3. Allows manufacturing specialists to focus on what they do
> best: mechanical and electrical design for low-cost, miniature
> consumer products of high value.
> 4. Evolving user-interface design produces better products. It
> is tough to get those pesky user interface issues designed
> right. But the open source community is always thinking about
> alternatives, trying them, rejecting some, and accepting the
> best. The product design "grows" naturally, like a biological
> system.
> 5. Access to specialized markets via special enhancements. For
> example, Rockbox supports a wide range of languages, from
> Afrikaans and Chinese through Hebrew and Polish to Turkish and
> Wallisertitsch. This sort of customization is expensive to
> develop. It opens markets that would otherwise be far too
> expensive to enter.
> 6. Major innovations. Rockbox now supports a full "talking"
> user interface that allows it to serve sigh-impaired (blind)
> customers at far less cost than products designed exclusively
> for them.
> How to design a product to use open-source software
> 1. The first thing to do is to find an open-source team with a
> software base appropriate for the product you want to build.
> For example, if you would like to manufacture hard-disk based
> MP3 players, the Rockbox team at
> could get you
> started. If you have other software-intensive consumer
> electronics projects in mind, you could post messages on
> electronic bulletin boards for similar open-source projects and
> ask for volunteers.
> 2. When you contact folks who are willing to write or adapt code
> for your product, ask them about the necessary hardware
> interface details. They'll be glad to share with you what you
> need to know to design your product. They probably will even be
> happy to provide some preliminary schematics, and review the
> changes you need to make for your manufacturing plans.
> 3. Share with them what you are doing. This community hates the
> "dreaded NDA word" that is so much a part of proprietary design.
> You want to listen to what they have to say about hardware
> features that are useful or unnecessary. They will be delighted
> to suggest enhancements that can make your product better.
> 4. Identify key members of this team and negotiate with them for
> their willingness to support your product. They won't be
> working for you, so you have to trust that they will have
> firmware ready to ship with your product. Obviously, the closer
> you product is to existing designs, the safer this will be. But
> the open-source community is much more reliable than you might
> think at first. If they make a promise, they will keep it.
> 5. Be prepared to send them prototypes and manufactured units to
> these developers. They have been spending money out of their
> own pocket to buy products; they will be delighted to get
> "freebies" in exchange for their efforts. Believe me, this will
> cost a whole lot less than hiring software teams for pay.
> In short
> This is a great way to get profitable and innovative products to
> the market and the bottom line. All you sacrifice is the
> proprietary nature of the products, but that has already been
> typically "owned" by the overseas design teams anyway.
> {pictures of Archos, IPod, and Rockbox screens are in order.,
> perhaps other contacts, etc.}
> #END#
> _______________________________________________

Received on 2004-03-21

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