The fallacy that is open source hardware
I think, in truth, the idea of open source hardware is a dud.
It is unfathomable that, somehow, the idea that while designs are “free” it makes sense as a business model. Someone has to pay for the hardware.
Coupled with the art-house thinking of open source generally then all sense of consumer rights and vendor obligations are now defunct.
My run in with DFRobotics is an example.
The margins a manufacturer generally makes on a manufactured product need to trade-off quality control with the matter of fact reality of returns of faulty products.
The quality control strives to reduce the number of returns, but will incur a cost of product discarded before boxing – hopefully to reduce the count of product faulty on opening the box.
With regards to returns, there is in fact a formula that one can use to add to the cost of a product the impact of returns under warranty – somewhat cynically then having the poor sap buying the right of return.
Still, the upshot there should be included in the price you pay the cost of the quality control and the cost also of the warranty provision – to catch the items the quality control misses.
You don’t have to be a mental giant then to work out if you don’t do the quality control you might need to put a higher premium on the warranty provision. Moreover, if you add the premium for the warranty provision, with no intent of paying on that premium, you are then unethically but conveniently milking the buyers. This is especially a boon if you are not spending on design and just copying, soldering chips onto boards with no checking.
Coupled with the technical distance from design, copying rather than innovating, assembling bits shy of the whole what are you then delivering?
Not a device!
It’s not just that it doesn’t work.
It’s that having borrowed the concept, the design, soldered the bits, there is no culpability for the Device as a functioning thing.
It is just bits soldered with no intent on it functioning as that is an risk I am supposed to accept.
This is a accepted belief in the “Community” I take it because it is a “Community”.
So consider this.
DFRobot, who sold me a dud CurieNano, sell a Genuino 101 for AUD$63. SparkFun sell the same Genuino 101 for AUD$46.
Is the inference that the DFRobot version is 137% better in quality?
Is in indicative of no quality control and the expected cost of returns (to be milked by not accepting returns)?
If the “phantom” quality control and warranty were factored out of the DFRobot Genuino 101 would it, or indeed should it, cost $46?
If your Genuino 101 from DFRobot were potentially to be a dud would you buy from DFRobot or from SparkFun? Would you buy from you sense of community or simply risk based on the chance that the open source hardware need not work, it is cheap after all so it’s your risk.
You need still wonder how the open source hardware story will end.
China copiers take the market off the good intentioned designers.
Raspberry Pi “community” shames copiers despite CC licensing of hardware (and apparently interferes with chip supply to copiers a la Odroid-W).
Chips assembled onto boards but “devices” not guaranteed operating when delivered with risk placed on the heads of the buyer who wants it cheap.