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Open source hardware is making big bucks

Drives patent lawyers nuts
Tue May 11 2010, 14:42

IT TURNS OUT that 13 companies are making millions from their open source hardware (OSHW) products.

Phillip Torrone and Limor Fried from the OSHW company Adafruit Industries gave a presentation at O'Reilly's Foo Camp East hacker conference held at Microsoft's campus near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The team put together a talk called "Million dollar baby - businesses designing and selling open source hardware, making millions."

"We make hardware and we give away the plans and we let people sell it and share it. And it turned out this is actually a really good business," Torrone told the attendees.

This year there are over 200 OSHW projects and Torrone and Fried claim OSHW products will be a billion dollar business by 2015.

Businesses making over one million dollars are Adafruit, Arduin, Bug Labs Chumby, Dangerous Prototypes, DIY Drones, Evil Mad Scientist Labs, Liquidware, Makerbot, Maker Shed, Parallex, Solarbotics and Sparkfun Electrontics. The companies produce everything from WiFi alarm clocks to kits for making your own military drones.

Like open source software, OSHW companies design products with an open license. Anyone can download and share their code, CAD files and circuit layouts. This means other companies or geekboys can mod and share the results - with a view to selling their kit.

"That's just 13 companies representing 50 million dollars on 200 projects with 300 coming up soon," said Torrone.

With those kinds of numbers, it seems possible that they might be on to something. µ


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