Gerald A geraldablists at gmail.com
Sun Apr 12 19:36:42 CEST 2009

Hi Werner,
First, I'd like to thank you and  Steve for participating in this. Even
being critical and to the point, we can know and get transparency then I
think it's a huge step forward.

On Sun, Apr 12, 2009 at 1:50 AM, Werner Almesberger <werner at openmoko.org>wrote:

> Steve Mosher wrote:
> > or more generally what is the next Open
> > source/open hardware phone that the community can build?.
> I think "can" is the key word here. A lot of the discussion
> I've seen so far reminds me of what we did with GTA01: blissfully
> ignorant of what it means to mass-produce something, we treated it
> as if all it took was to make an engineering prototype. Once that
> one "worked", we'd be okay, right ?
> Unfortunately, a lot more is needed to make a real product. It
> starts with finding parts that are actually available throughout
> the whole product lifecycle [1], that are available at a tolerable
> price in mass quantities [2], and that are supported by the vendor
> [3].

Now, I'm a software guy, so take this with a grain of salt. But why can't we
have two "streams", like big projects? The current/testing stuff could be
community designed. Things that get moved to "stable/release" would have the
OM seal of approval.

In this way, a couple smart hardware hackers can put together a phone with a
built in itch-scratching device. Wow, neat. OM can look at it, and evaluate
it's market/chip needs/etc, and decide whether it's a viable thing to take
to market. It would be good if OM could also indicate why a design isn't
chosen (can't get 5000 nail-like finger extensions) or what they would
require to achieve critical success (need to have a potential to sell 10,000

A lot of the problems Openmoko had to deal with weren't even
> publicly visible. E.g., Sean must have spent months negotiating
> with LCM vendors.

This is painful, I agree. And unfortunately we're still too much of a niche
to do anything about this. Maybe this can be talked about,
without too much detail? "Trying to source a suitable XYZ controller". It
should also talk about the challenges, because I've seen at least a dozen
suggestions for alternate chips, all well meaning, and probably chips you
did evaluate, but couldn't source in quantity and timeframes needed.

> And once you have the parts, you need to find a factory that can
> actually build the device. Some parts had yield rates as low as
> 50%. Quite obviously, while this may be okay for an engineering
> prototype, you'll have a hard time being profitable if you have to
> bin half of your hardware.

 That depends on part price point, and device price point. Now, I'm not a
biz guy either, but if the parts are only $0.10, and you are circular
binning half of them, $0.20 isn't a huge impact. Different story if the part
cost is $50, of course. It's a factor that many don't see, though.

And that means that you have to find the bad apples in the first
> place. In GTA01, we just proudly presented the factory with the
> bringup and testing process process we had cooked up in
> engineering and expected them to use this. In fact, they did as
> they were told. So the factory workers plugged in debug board
> cables and then manually ran the devirginator. If it failed, they
> did it again. (In GTA02, things were a little smoother.)

I think this is a great anecdote. It shows the line between producing
something on a grand scale and making one. And it's a good bit of light that
is shined down on things, and I think that clarity makes it easier to see
how things go. It also shows you learned, and improved the process. I think
it's a lesson we have to pay attention to.

> There's a lot more. The bottom line is that it's hard to
> mass-produce something and that the experience one gets from making some
> prototypes or small "hobbyist" runs doesn't really prepare for industrial
> production. It's very easy to overlook this difficulty but reality will
> catch up when things enter the production stage. Naturally, that is a really
> bad time for "surprises".

This is where things bounce over from hobby to business, IMHO. If a hobbyist
comes up with a phone that can also function as the key for your car, that
might be interesting. If some car company then has $10K to twiddle with it,
can it be turned into a "product"? Does that figure have to be an order of
magnitude bigger? Are OM the right people to make such a product? I don't
know the answer to any of these questions, but hopefully we can think about
them, and maybe come up with some answers.

[3] E.g., consider the ridiculous amounts of time we had and still
>    have to sink into AR6k, Calypso, both with deficiencies in
>    vendor support, and to a lesser extent GPS and the CPU itself.

It's easy to be an armchair critic, but harder to be a real-world producer,
no doubt. And here is where compromises in design come back to roost,
unfortunately. While we'd all like everything to be open, open embedded
components might not be available in quantities and timeframes you guys
need, and that I understand. But, it also compounds your support issues,
because now you guys aren't able to get community software support in
critical areas where you would be leveraging the real power of the open
source community. (Let's not even talk about field upgrades of firmware and
the like).

I'd love to know more about the mystery acronyms and the process of building
an engineering prototype into a phone. And there is much more negotiation
and compromise built into the process then I think anyone initially

Thanks again,
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