I’m so glad to se a discussion of these important issues, and I hope everyone makes a post! Jump in if you’re afraid, we won’t bite.
FYI, my question is based in principle: hardware should be open for it to proliferate. I’m not trying to go ‘against’ the Arduino team in asking this, in fact i talk to them often and they are really terrific people who I have enormous respect for: they have done an amazing thing in having the guts, drive and commitment to bring Arduino to where it is.
Ultimately what scares me about keeping the files closed are two things.
The first is that using the rhetoric of “open source” to build a huge ( 10,000 + and counting) community, but not letting the hardware be really open. I find this deceptive. It’s also against the license it was issued under: the gerber files, etc, are derivatives of the schematics, and derivatives must be licensed and shared in the same way. This is important to follow on principle: what if the Linux and Ubuntu people had said: “hey, don’t sell any copies of that software-- we’ll do the selling?” Obviously they wouldn’t be where they are.
The second is that under the above, we’re ending up supporting a sole manufacturer. This makes part of the project a commercial enterprise. The project would have to watch out for the commercial interests of it’s manufacturer, and I think, at this point, the those are conflicting interests. (That said, Gianluca is really a fantastic guy and a terrific manufacturer! He had a lot of guts to support this project from the inception with risky, expensive production runs.)
Finally, I don’t think anyone should worry about low-quality Arduinos being the result of open files. This Arduino copy looks like pretty good quality, don’t you think? http://www.flickr.com/photos/dcuartielles/956504607/in/set-72157601110215953/
Re: offshore manufacturing, a very large percentage of the Arudino’s components are manufactured in China: almost all electronic components are made there now. So are most of the consumer electronic goods you buy. that Ipod? Made in taiwan from Chinese parts. Conditions are not as described in a previous post (you might check with some of our China-based Arduino contributors and forum readers to confirm this). For one thing, you can’t make .006 tolerance PCB’s or Atmega processors in poor conditions.
I do think there has to be a hardware standard, there have to be quality controls, there has to be consistency, as previous posters note.
Trademarks licensing seems like the way to go, what do you guys think of that? Allowing others to make boards, but under license and subject to the standard design that the team has produced. This would promote price competition. ( production costs for an Arduino are around $10 USD by my estimate-- the other $22 is manufacturer and distributor profit) The license could stipulate a maximum price, since accessibility is a key component of the project. The license could stipulate manufacturing and functionality standards. Manufacturers would pay a royalty per board ($3?), and this would go back to the Arduino foundation to pay for future designs and prototypes, the web site, forum etc.
Just a few thoughts, I hope people won’t be afraid to chime in here with their point of view. It’s an important discussion.
edit: fixed my usual typos.