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Open-source hardware takes baby steps toward the gadget mainstream

Mar 04, 2010, 11:03 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Howard Wen)

"Open-source software is one of the great success stories of the past few decades. The Apache HTTP Server is the world's most popular Web server, Linux has more than held its own against Unix and other proprietary operating systems, and Mozilla's Firefox browser has given Microsoft's Internet Explorer strong competition over the years.

"Could the same philosophy — the free and public dissemination of underlying code and specs, with multiple developers from disparate sources contributing to the design — work for tech gadgets as well? Will we one day commonly use smartphones, netbooks or other gadgets that have been developed under an open-source model, maybe even preferring them over proprietary products like the iPhone?

"After all, it's possible today to design a device — including its electrical and mechanical architecture — on a personal computer with CAD and schematic design software, order nearly all the components needed for it online, and then process the manufacturing of a prototype through a low-cost supplier. So the idea of organizing an open-source project online to build a device isn't far-fetched, nor is it one that requires millions in start-up funding."

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