I originally read this post a month back and thought it was pretty interesting but didn’t post on it. But in looking back I think it’s worth exploring a little. MFGx is an online social networking site for manufacturers both large and small. Its founder Mitch Free is CEO of MFG.com, an online marketplace for manufacturing who created MFGx as a community place where manufacturers and those in the industry could help support each other. In the forums Mitch suggested an idea which I doubt many manufacturers would like but which just may catch on – open source hardware.
” Should certain product manufacturers publish their designs for anyone to download and move towards an open source (hardware not software) model? I think so. Why, because it would leverage the masses to proliferate their low margin hardware platform and allow them to sell the high margin consumables or data content.“
Mitch suggests Tivo as an example of where if they open sourced the hardware and let anyone make it, then they could sell the data online. I think cellphones are a great example as well. If my phone provider made it possible to open source some phone hardware I might finally get a phone I really want instead of refusing to buy a new one because none of the features match my needs or requirements. I know these are easier said than done, but I can’t help but think that Mitch might have a few ideas that make sense here. For years cars have been customized and modded to fit the needs of their users. Isn’t it time a few other product areas became open source and customizable? I know we can individually hack away at things and create our own to an extent, but if there was a tacit agreement between the manufacturers and the makers (as there is in the car aftermarket) I think there could be a lot of really cool innovation – we might even find some Jesse James type guys in the meantime. Hopefully Mitch’s comment strikes a nerve with more people in the manufacturing industry as it has with me.