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Submission + - Is an "Open Hardware" Company feasible?

3d-Bob writes: I don't know if anyone has suggested this crazy idea before. When we (collectively) had a problem with Windows, we (again, collectively) wrote Linux (not to mention the other operating systems). Since hardware manufacturers are causing us problems, why can't we create our own hardware? I know about the OpenBIOS project, but this is just a drop in the bucket compared to what I have in mind!

Let's pretend we create an "open hardware" company called BigFreeCo (not to be confused with Big Freako!). Since BigFreeCo's mandate is to support only open software and open hardware, it will not only fully support Linux, it will NOT support any form of DRM, proprietary communication protocol, "trusted platform" bilge, or hidden backdoor to the NSA.

With this approach, we only need ONE computer, ONE wired network card, ONE wireless network adapter, ONE high-end graphics card, ONE sound card, ONE graphics tablet, etc. We wouldn't have to write 4,000 bloody drivers for 4,000 pieces of hardware! (We would, of course, have to comply with Web / TCP-IP standards.)

We could design ALL hardware however we like. We don't like the PCI or USB interfaces? Fine, we'll create ever better interfaces, and we won't have to pay royalties for them! (Of course, we'd have to design plug-in hardware compatible with this, but we're BigFreeCo, remember? We CAN DO ANYTHING WE WANT!)

There are, of course, massive logistical problems with this approach:

1) Who would run this company? (Linux is only successful because Mr. Torvalds has the final word, barring a massive revolt.) What kind of organization would run this company (it would have to be trusted with huge amounts of money; we're potentially talking BILLIONS of dollars).

2) Did I mention that we'd need lots of money? We'd have to either build (or buy an existing) hardware factory. We'd need distribution channels (or a very large factory to direct-ship from). We'd also need lots of advertising money.

3) We'd need to pay lawyers and accountants. I'm neither one of these things, so I can't even imagine the legalities or practicalities of this venture (has there ever been an entity like this?)

4) We'd need to stay focused like never before. We can't let ourselves get fractionalized like we see with Linux. Every time there's a squabble, some MyLinux gets forked to MyLinuxA and MyLinuxB, and everyone involved wastes precious time name-calling and playing the blame game. This doesn't help anyone (except Microsoft). Again, someone (or a small group of people) needs to be in charge (but be accountable). This sounds like a standard corporation with a board of directors, but again, I'm not a lawyer...

5) I think we could still support other operating systems besides Linux on our new PC, but conflicts will arise. For example, a new, really cool hardware design may work with existing Linux code but not existing OpenBSD code; we'll need to get a consensus as to whether we should redesign the hardware to work with both or "fix" the OpenBSD code (back off Theo — you're my hero!). We would all need to be flexible and ADULT here.

Does anyone think this could work? We wouldn't have to answer to anyone but ourselves. If that isn't true freedom, I don't know what is! Opinions?

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.