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Chester, UK
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My thoughts:

I aways got the impression that it all started because a few people thought it was a great idea.  I work for a gigantic company that wouldn't stock the toilets with a different brand of toilet paper without endless research and cost/benefit analysis.  However sometimes people just do things without thinking about it too much - very occasionally it works out.  I suspect this road is littered with the corpses of many instances where it didn't.  I wouldn't be surprised if the lack of sales data is due to the people involved having more important things to do.
In terms of your comments about revenue - what would you call engineering costs?  People's time developing?  I've spent days and days working on a couple of projects.  I'm not interested in IP rights or anything like that - if anything I've done can help others, they're more than welcome to it.  I suspect many people involved in open source are the same.
I think it's the same as looking at a charity with the eyes of a commercial organisation - it just doesn't make sense.  What's in it for these people?  It varies - but the only thing you can pretty much be sure of is: it's not the money.

Wow I'm rambling like Grandpa Simpson today.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2010, 06:10:10 am by daveg360 » Logged

If your system involves lethal voltages/life critical/flamable elements - you probably shouldn't need to ask.
The Arduino != PC.

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Hello daveg360, I agree with most of the things your saying.

According to various articles about Arduino, it started life in Academia. That tells us the funding came from within a University department, and at some point, there was a thought about making Arduino a commercial proposition by its inventors. Perhaps without the teeth of corporate acumen, but still a revenue generating scheme.

I'm not suggesting that Arduino should be turned into a commercial monster that will alienate its original followers and put an end to its open source nature. Remember that Arduino is great for many types of user and let's not detract from that.

What I am trying to do is explore ideas to improve Arduino's usefulness to professional developers. But I'd want a return on my investment for developing new hardware. Resellers (e.g. Sparkfun and RS Components) have to make money to pay their bills. So there is nothing rebellious and shocking about wanting to charge for physical products.

So what's involved in development costs for retail, you ask? Money is spent on:

1. Licensing CAD tools for PCBs (on "for profit" terms).
2. Procurement of electronic components.
3. The manufacture of the boards.
4. The required tests - manufacturing tests for quality assurance and electrical compliance (e.g. CE mark).
5. Getting the product out to the distributors and being sold.
6. The developers time if they are to earn a living.

In academia, a grant fund would cover the costs, and intelligent labour is somewhat voluntary. The end goal is different, because academics aren't generally interested in making big money from their ideas, but sharing their findings. Sound familiar?

I used to work for a well known semiconductor business. The finance controller had asked engineering departments to work out cost per head of its employees. After the costs of EDA tool licensing were added up and divided by the headcount, we cost something extortionate per day as our booking cost! At that rate of burn, you need a good cashflow. But that is how it works.

I think people need to learn and respect that Opensource hardware does not mean "free of cost" as it does for software. It just cannot be at zero cost for everyone. Yes I acknowledge that the Arduino team have published a few reference designs, and the developer community have shared their work, but you can see that the originator of this process had to give out in the first place.

I say let developers decide the value of their work. Those who want to do it for free, carry on unaffected, but those who need to charge something for their work, please can the Arduino team provide information of use to market research activity. Both routes lead to enhancing Arduino in my humble opinion.

The information desired is a breakdown of production quota out of the Italian factory and to where these boards were sent to by country, year on year. We don't need to know who the resellers are or the quota they individually received - everything can remain anonymous. Protect the information via non-disclosure agreement to be controlled about it.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2010, 09:39:13 am by solderflux » Logged

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Here is my opinion (Solderflux, like you, I am making assumptions):

The Arduino project is the result of the merging other already existing open source ideas/projects. (Wiring and Processing)  The original WIRING board that influenced the Arduino's design was much more expensive and Arduino grew out of the desire to have a simpler,  more affordable hardware solution.

It was made easier by the fact that the GUI design existed (WIRING) and the back-end open source compiler existed, AVR GCC.

Assuming that there was a huge development cost... like those involved in creating a solution fro the ground up... might be a bit of a stretch.  I'm not discounting what the team has done...   I'm just saying that it was the re-usability of existing open source projects that made Arduino easier to develop.

As for CAD... I believe that the board size is below the limitations of the low-cost/free EAGLE CAD software so maybe an expensive CAD solution was not considered part of development cost.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2010, 09:51:12 am by pwillard » Logged

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The information desired is a breakdown of production quota out of the Italian factory

If this information is available, it may not be as useful as you think.  No one knows how many hundreds of boards are being shipped from China.  There are also plenty of distributors who do not sell an "official" Arduino.  They could be printing the boards themselves or getting boards from China.  There could be 2x - 10x more Arduino clones being produced by third parties.

But in the end, the more information you can get the better.  If the Arduino team has this information to release it will be helpful.  It may not be enough to woe over some investors, but it should tell you if you can support your development costs.

BTW- I have tried contacting the Arduino team in the past for information on obtaining/licensing and selling "Official" Arduinos.  They never responded back to me.  If they don't have the time to do that, chances are they don't have time to respond about market research.
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Opensource hardware has a real cost to the original developer
This is a poor assumption imo, despite everybodies claim that it costs nothing to duplicate the bits in the program, compared to hardware stuff.. software takes just as much time, if not more, to create. Time is money, and especially in the world outside of opensource software.. expect to pay for absolutely everything (OS, editor, e-mail, libraries, online services, etc. etc.). Why is it easy to ignore the nights you spend coding, and not the couple of cents for that diode?


That aside (since it has little meaning to the actual topic, just wanted to share that bit), you raise an interesting point in regards to proffessionals.
The arduino platform isn't intended for proffessional use (as in, to end up in the final product), but, it can be a fantastic (simple) prototyping tool.. which it is being sold as.
The proffessional makes a prototype with the arduino, and if it is well received by the financers, develops his or her own print with the atmel chip, and sells that...
And that is the key difference, suddenly it isn't an arduino anymore!
This also means it is suddenly an entirely different market, suddenly you are selling to the 'ignorant masses', instead of people who are interested if not specialised in the area of hardware.
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pwillard: Surmise:"Your opinion of how Arduino evolved"

Projects like Arduino would not have taken off if it weren't for a few free goodies oiling the wheels. The most obvious factors are the cost savings for two key elements which enabled a developer community:

1. The free GNU AVR C compiler, running on all host platforms. Ten years ago, you'd be paying GB£600 for a good compiler.

2. Eagle PCB software with a free "not for profit" edition, running on all host platforms. Normally this costs anywhere between GB£700 to GB£3000, depending upon the capability.

Add to this an IDE for all host platforms, and you have a wonderfully successful formula.

The rest of the story is pretty run-of-the-mill for projects in academia.

Jef k: Re:"If this information is available, it may not be as useful as you think."

All that's required is a proportional representation of the market, and for that data to be truthful - you can be satisfied with that and some assumptions about the Italian / Far East manufacturing split.

The official line from the Arduino team is that you have to call your Arduino clones "Arduino compatible" - you may not call them "Arduino" or imply that they are official/genuine. Also, suppliers are told that if they want to sell genuine boards made in Italy, there is a minimum order take. With the clones being up to 50% cheaper, what do you think happens?

Herein lies the problem with Opensource hardware. The Arduino team make their boards in their own factory, but because they published the design, they soon get beaten up at their own game by manufacturers in the Far East who produce clones ten to a penny. The reason is that not all people respect the ecology. The reality is a diminished revenue stream for the Arduino team.

Imahilus: Re:"Poor assumtion"

Yes both hardware and software have inherent development cost. But you cannot download physical hardware can you? Hardware additionally has a cost of producing it in physical form. And besides, it was the "softies" who came up with Opensource in the first place! ;op

So no, I don't agree. I think I need to defend the value of hardware developers, because as some people assume incorrectly that it is just about discrete components being put together. There is a lot more skill to it than you're seeing, believe me. The couple of cents diode is that price because it is the result of hardware engineers spending years to perfect the manufacturing process.

I do agree with you about it being a good prototyping platform.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2010, 11:52:06 am by solderflux » Logged

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No need to defend the hardware guys  smiley
Just when it comes to hardware vs software, don't lift one above the other.
The couple of cents for that diode is a result of the lineage of engineers (both software and hardware).
Too often to people think software is free, opensource just means somebody invested their time (and thus money) in it, and is hoping it will help you out (whether it is a hardware or software design, doesn't really matter).
But that angle has allready been covered by somebody else  smiley-wink
« Last Edit: July 03, 2010, 12:00:12 pm by Imahilus » Logged

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Projects like Arduino would not have taken off if it weren't for a few free goodies oiling the wheels. The most obvious factors are the cost savings for two key elements which enabled a developer community:

1. The free GNU AVR C compiler, running on all host platforms. Ten years ago, you'd be paying GB£600 for a good compiler.

2. Eagle PCB software with a free "not for profit" edition, running on all host platforms. Normally this costs anywhere between GB£700 to GB£3000, depending upon the capability.

Add to this an IDE for all host platforms, and you have a wonderfully successful formula.

The rest of the story is pretty run-of-the-mill for projects in academia.

And the point of what you are trying to say escapes me at the moment.  Sorry, I *am* trying to understand.

The barriers to success for Arduino were almost not there...

This is not 10 years ago and the compiler was free and open source.
The cad software was not expensive.
The IDE was basically already developed.

I see that the Arduino team were most excellent at system integration.

I really think you are trying to force 1960's Technology company attitudes towards the ARDUINO.  I think that's going to be some work for you to accomplish.  
« Last Edit: July 03, 2010, 12:56:11 pm by pwillard » Logged

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This thread has gone way over the level that I normally think about things, but if somebody has an idea for a product then they can simply post a few details about it here and see if there is any interest from the people on the forum. It has been done before.

If something is going to cost a considerable amount of money to develop and produce, how will it be protected from being copied once it is made available?  

What can be fitted onto an Arduino shield that needs such an amount of analysis before a prototype is produced and shown to the community?
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The information desired is a breakdown of production quota out of the Italian factory
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RE:"OTOH, have you tried asking for such data?"
Yes I asked Massimo about the future of Arduino
"Futures" and "current marketing data" are quite different things.  You can read Intel's annual report and get a good idea how many Pentiums they are shipping, but if you want the roadmap of what's coming next you better be a big enough company to make it worth their while to have their non-disclosure marketing team visit you...

(and, an "enhanced platform" suggestion is less likely to receive attention compared to "shield" type products.  My impression is that the Arduino team would like to maintain pretty tight control over the core platform...)

Quote
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Opensource hardware has a real cost to the original developer
This is a poor assumption
"development" may be as cheap for hardware as for software, but actual "deployment" of hardware requires buying real parts and pcbs and things.  Ie The (nkc) "freeduino" development was free (donated time), right up until Tony ordered 100each of 4 different PCBs to see if (a) they would actually work.  (b) how assembly of the different SMT sizes actually worked.  It's worth noting that most of those boards were never sold as products, so that was a significant chunk of "real money."  Actually selling the final version requires maintaining an inventory of parts; more real money (and a pretty thorny business problem, judging by the amount of energy that major companies spend controlling inventories...)

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What I am trying to do is explore ideas to improve Arduino's usefulness to professional developers. But I'd want a return on my investment for developing new hardware.

Assuming someone is starting a social entrepreneurship venture, they first have to be convinced of the cause and be willing to give their best to it before working out the financials (even accept the fact it will be profitable only in the long run!) Your way of looking at data is like saying first lets look at the financials before deciding to believe in the cause.

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What can be fitted onto an Arduino shield that needs such an amount of analysis before a prototype is produced and shown to the community?

true. I suspect there are few things left that have not been tried. There are enough people around who've tried and put a whole lot of things on the arduino.
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Imahilus: RE:"The couple of cents for that diode is a result of the lineage of engineers (both software and hardware)."

Um. Were software engineers involved in the first ever diode? ;op

The better person is actually the engineer who considers all of the problem; hardware and software as a whole.

pwillard: RE:"And the point of what you are trying to say escapes me at the moment..."  + "1960's Technology company attitudes..."

The point I am saying is that the Opensource hardware concept of Arduino wasn't viable until key software tools became free to the public - a compiler and PCB editor. Imagine if the Arduino community had to pay for these key software tools... You'd still all be writing in assembler and mail ordering your PCBs from electronics magazines. Arduino is a technical revolution in a way, because it brought together all the key ingredients.

Your remark that PCB software was never expensive - this statement is totally opposing to the ethos of Opensource where everything is meant to be free. A proportion of the Arduino community don't like paying for anything it seems! (Take that with a pinch of salt).

I was amused at your rant about "1960's..." whatever - you have absolutely no idea of my age or employment history, and it showed when you made that remark. Keep it constructive.

jabber: RE:"trying an idea" + "what's so secret and how can it be protected from being copied"

Yes, you can make something for Arduino and trial the uptake - I've been conversing with a person about that very approach; by far the best constructive thing I've heard and outside of this forum. The point of this thread was to gain some insight into how money could be best spent on developing a new product or two. The discussion appears to be an emotive subject for its readers, but I remind people I am not breaking Arduino as a concept. And there isn't a secret to reveal.

westfw: RE:"'Futures' and 'current marketing data' are quite different things" + "'development' may be as cheap for hardware as for software"

Yes futures and current marketing data are often different. But "market research and projection" is how some of the leading technical companies plan and execute their ventures. It is standard practice and I'll be using it thanks.

There are different expenses of hardware development. For example, you can cheaply put together shields built from commercial ICs, e.g. logic gates. But if you want to do something more functionally intensive (and useful), then development costs will increase in pursuit of that goal. The point being not all hardware development is cheap, especially if you're starting from scratch. You're going to want to know financially if it is worth your while.

pracas: RE:"Your way of looking at data is like saying first lets look at the financials before deciding to believe in the cause."

Believing in the cause does not eliminate the need to be realistic about resource (i.e. funding). Hardware development is not free; Cash is King. The point of this, I feel I have to repeat, is to determine viability of the exercise and to plan how best to spend some development money.

==========================

I'm done here for now. Thanks to those who contributed constructively.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2010, 08:18:15 pm by solderflux » Logged

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 Well I don't come from a professional background on marketing of arduino shield products. However I do think I am a typical Arduino user and I have come to expect that any shield hardware I buy comes with published schematic and open sourced firmware and libraries if used. I have no problem buying the product instead of downloading the design and building my own version, but now that I have experienced what open sourced hardware and software offers me, there is no way I would go back to proprietary products. It's just a hobby for me, so I can afford to take that stand. Check out SparkFun site http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/categories.php?c=103 , they sell many Arduino products that they have developed and usually always post the schematics and source code on the products they designed.

 I'm not saving you can't come up with a proprietary profit making product, but I do think it will be a hard sell if some of the expected market comes from the existing Arduino user base if the design is proprietary in nature.

Lefty
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Yes I have determined the "resistance"!
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Yes I have determined the "resistance"!

Good for you. smiley-wink
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