steve at openmoko.com
Mon Apr 6 04:07:06 CEST 2009
For the sake of everyone who hasnt read my posts on this
or seen the video of seans speech. Let me say that your position
is the one we settled on. spend our resources on the FR and then
fund a modest project: project B. Put the GTA03 on hold
and find a way to involve the community more in its development.
inlined below find an advanced copy of my official comments.
stuff I send to the press. As a side note on this, these official
comments grew out of posts I made here first. During sean's presentation
someone commented that our approach to open business was the most
radical he had seen. It is. and it presents great challenges for all
I'll have my video up in a bit, an interview.
Here's the advance copy of my comments to the press.
During the last week Openmoko has had two great events. First the
Embedded System Conference, ESC) and second, the OpenExpo in Bern. Those
events could not have been more well timed for us because we had two
major announcements to make: a thrust into the embedded systems market
and the announcement of a new device, not a phone but an entirely new
The launch into the embedded systems market is a case of the market
finding the manufacturer. We designed the FreeRunner as an open phone.
After it launched we started to receive requests from customers we never
dreamed existed: Innovators who wanted to change the case or add in
additional hardware. People who wanted to resell the phone with their
software added. The collective creativity outside the company, dwarfed
the creativity within the company. Our customers truly are an army of
Davids. To seize this opportunity we decided to open up our CAD files,
and open up our schematics. That way these new-found markets can develop
for themselves products that we don’t have the resources to develop. So,
over the next few months you’ll see us make a more focused effort in
this market space. As a platform for embedded development, nothing
compares to the FreeRunner: Open schematics; Open CAD; Open hardware;
At OpenExpo we had a keynote speech in the business track. This gave us
the opportunity to explain some of the change in focus we’ve made in the
past month. Our CEO Sean Moss-Pultz delivered the presentation and I’ll
take some space here to explain in a bit more detail the background
behind these exciting changes. Sean discussed three things:
1. Our successes.
2. Our mistakes.
3. Our challenges
It’s vitally important when addressing the challenges of the future to
assess and understand your past success. Openmoko launched its first
developer phone in July of 07 and the FreeRunner shipped in July of 08.
Sales tripled. Not only did we build a phone; we built a company and
distribution network in the process. We also helped others build their
own businesses around the FreeRunner. Our takeaway lessons were as
follows: Open Products can be successful in the marketplace; being Open
multiplies everyone’s business opportunities. For our mistakes we
identified these: Open Product design is very hard as there is a
tendency to make too many changes. Our culture is not authoritarian. We
also tended to view hardware with a “software” mentality, as something
that could be easily changed or patched.
Our challenge going forward is to seize the opportunity we see in the
embedded space and push forward the cause of open hardware. And we had
to make some choices about how to spend the balance of 2009. There were
essentially three projects going on inside OpenMoko: ongoing support of
FreeRunner; Development of a follow on phone, the GTA03; and development
of project “B”. From a resources standpoint we could pick any two. Given
the traction we see in the embedded space and given our passionate
commitment to current FreeRunner owners and developers it was easy to
pick that project. Nine months after launching FreeRunner with
tremendous support from the community the product is coming into its own
with a diverse set of distributions that run on it, from android to
debian. Then comes the choice between project “B” and the GTA03.
There were two paths:
A: Fulfill our promises on FreeRunner and launch GTA03
B: Fulfill our promises on FreeRunner and launch project B.
We will talk more about project B in the coming months, but these
salient facts guided our decisions:
1. GTA03 was in constant flux as a design.
2. GTA03 schedule was consequently always slipping.
3. The resources required for GTA03 are 3X those required for Project B.
4. OM doesn’t have 3X resources
So, we picked plan B. Focus on supporting the FreeRunner and launching
the more modest project, project B. That decision entailed putting GTA03
on hold and rethinking how we do that product and that business in a
better way: learning from our mistakes and building on our success. It
also meant restructuring engineering and sales and marketing.
Now comes the question, what about GTA03? how do we get there? And when?
and what is it?
First, we attend to the issues that still remain with the FreeRunner.
Second we complete project B. When we've done that, then we get to eat
dessert. Essentially, we agreed with the case made by users on our
community list. They asked us: ”How do expect us to buy a GTA03 when the
FreeRunner is not yet consumer ready?” We also listened to our
distribution partners. They wanted to know how they could continue to
sell the FreeRunner when the GTA03 was “just around the corner.” And
finally, we listened to our engineers. Since all of our sales are to
people who understand engineering, their opinion about market viability
is very important to us.
All of those arguments said the GTA03 as defined made no sense. As it
was defined, it is dead. So how do we get to a new GTA03? Two
requirements: continue to improve the FreeRunner; deliver on project B.
What is GTA03 and when do we get there? There are a number of
independent volunteer efforts out working at defining the GTA03 and
working at refining or revolutionizing the business model to make it
possible. Going forward we are going to open those efforts entirely. Our
community has consistently asked for a voice in the up-front design
decisions, so we will build a mechanism to try to make that happen.
Again, whenever we see a challenge or an opportunity our first reaction
is to rely on our strength. The community. They have never let us down.
Specifically what can the community do to help with this challenge and
seize the opportunities we are presented with?
1. Move FreeRunner code upstream.
2. Stay involved or get involved.
3. Continue work on applications and distributions
4. Buy a FreeRunner.
5. Get involved in GTA03 discussions. The mailing list will appear on
Openmoko.org in the forthcoming days.
Anthony Clearn wrote:
> Perhaps one of the positives which could be taken from this is that it allows a rethink. One question in my mind was why the need to produce GTA03 when GTA02 was getting better? I hadn't time to follow GTA03 as like many people, I see, I have a fair few emails to read. I once heard someone say most businesses fail as they try to be perfect (something like the waterfall, I suppose). So could things move on with just a GTA02 (not forgetting GTA01, but concentrating on the latest product) or does the project really need 03 / plan B? I suppose having a camera, 3G, etc would have been good, but isn't the fact that the phone is open the big selling point? I know it is for me.
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