Some questions I always wanted to ask

Steve Mosher steve at
Sun Apr 19 22:57:38 CEST 2009

I'll explain what bits and pieces I know

Laszlo KREKACS wrote:
> Hi!
> I would like to ask some question which always bugged me.
> Glamo:
> 1. Why glamo was choosen in the first place back in the GTA02 design phase?
> - 2442 required it absolutely? (ie. a graphics accelerator is needed
> in any case.)
    Don't know. When I came on board in late 08, the decision was already
    made. I would suspect it was the ONLY 3D chip that met the "open"
    requirmrents. Since I have a pretty extensive backgound in 3D
    I made the rounds to all my friends at 3D companies late in 08..
    no joy.
> - There were no alternative graphics chip to glamo?
    not that met the open requirements.

> - There were no alternative CPU (like 6410 just two years earlier)
> which does not require an external graphics chip?
> 2. How deep was known all the glamo deficiencies when the GTA02 design
> was finalized?

    Raster and I met for the first time in October of 2008 in TPE.
    I had just come on board, so had he. At our first lunch we started
    to go over the glamo in some detail. When I realized who the
    chip designers were and what the features were (bandwidth is 
everything) It became clear to me ( as was clear to raster) that
     only some software miracles could improve things. In hindsight
    both of us should have screamed to have the galmoectomy.. maybe
    raster did..So, I guess you could put it this way. If Raster
    or I were around when the design decision was made, neither of
    us would have supported such a decision. Once we came on board
    we lacked the courage/power/bandwidth to insist on changing
    the design.. It basically became " hey raster, do your best to
    speed shit up" but if you look at the speeds and feeds it was
    a futile excercise.  Ah, early on ( at that first lunch and first 
dinner that night) I think the two of us agreed the best thing
   would be to punt to 320x240.. since that's what the chip was targeted

> - Raster always said that glamo was designed to 320x240 screen and not
> 640x480. Was it known back then?
    See above. I'm pretty sure the guys who selected the chip had no
    comprehension of the performance requirements.
> - Glamo bandwith limit was known?
    Again, I'm pretty sure the folks selecting the chip had no
    comprehension of the imporatnce of BW or the implications
    for overall design. System design study was not a strong suit

> 3. Was the GTA02 tested performance wise at all? (were most of the
> glamo weakness would turn out)

    Not sure. IN my past I would have had a suite of Graphics performance
    tests to run against the chip. But it's clear from the specs, that
    its more likely to be a decelerator.. kinda like the Virge3d of
    cellphone 3D.

> Audience:
> How are the target audience identified?

   It develops over time. When I came on board the principal target 
market was embedded open source developers who were keen to see
   FOSS on a phone. and there was some notion that at some point
   this solution would have a larger appeal ( say mass market)
> Maybe the question seems a bit too simple, but this buggers me the most.
> In my view Openmoko makes false assumptions, targeting ghost groups.
> In "plan B" they are targeting "embedded engineers", what are the facts backing
> this statement?
    The embedded market, more specifically, those hardware developers 
who  want to use the platform to prototype systems is one that came to 
us. Simply, my mailbox fills up with requests from these types of 
developers. And all that came without directly targeting them. So we
decided to run a marketing campaign against that target. We picked
the biggest show we could find. Got a speaking gig. ran a show special.
Sales more than doubled in the past 30 days from the US store. So,
I'll take money from ghosts.
> Was identified who buyed the GTA01 and GTA02?
> Was any poll on the website where the owners could vote why they buyed
> the device?
    At this stage of market development I've found its best to pay
    attention to those who do more than answer a poll question. I
    listen to those who are putting their time and effort in. So,
    for example, A guy who bought the Neo1973 comes to me and shows
     me that he has android up and working. I don't need a poll to
    tell me this could be huge. So I gave him a FR back in feb 08.

> And meet their requirements?
> Did Openmoko asked even once that how many owners wanted to hardware
> mod the device.
   Nope. Again, I look at what people are actually doing rather than they
   are saying. After seeing a few HW projects and getting many requests
   for support on other HW projects I figured it was worth the
   effort to speak at a conference.
> (they would be these "embedded engineers" even if some of them are
> only hobbyists)
> These *marketing* research wouldn't cost Openmoko Inc. a cent... Im
> not a marketing guy
> at all (I was teached a year at uni about marketing, but I only
> learned to avoid it if I can;),
> but these researches are so obvious.
   Well not so obvious. The problem is this. Sampling. In the beginning
   we primarily market to the community that is already AWARE of
   the FOSS mobile movement. Sean would speak exclusively at Open Source
   conferences. So, polling a group of software developers about there
   interests in HW mods is not exactly selected an unbiased sample.
   These researches may seem obvious to you, but my training in 
statitsics and the costs of doing market research tell a different 
story. In any case, as a marketing guy, you have to play a hunch
   sometimes. You have a mail box full of inquiries... some people
   here and there doing interesting projects, some big customers
   buying 5-10 units to prototype solutions.. and all this with
   ZERO marketing directed at them. Anyways, Now we have the
   ability to message these folks directly and cheaply. So, If I
   want to poll somebody ( a horrible way to do product design)
   I have a list of 10K  embedded engineers I can ask.
> I would ask the owners (if I were openmoko) the following questions:
> 1. Do you use your openmoko?
> a) daily
> b) weekly or when I have free time
> c) times to times (monthly)
> d) I do not have time but I plan
> e) I do not plan to use it anymore (dusts covers it)
> f) broken
> g) I sold/offered it
> h) else. I write it in the comments
> 2. What openmoko device do you have?
> a) GTA01
> b) GTA02
> c) both
> d) none, but I plan to buy GTA02
> e) none, but I plan to buy a future device (ie. not GTA02)
> 3. Are your requirements fulfilled by the device?
> 4. Are you content with the device?
> 5. Did you hardware-mod the device?
> 6. How would you identify yourself?
>    (regular user, developer, system developer, hardware engineer, etc)
> 7. Did you contribute to the software?
>    (kernel, FSO, i wrote an application, i contributed to an existing
> application, i plan, etc)
> 8. Do you like the look, the case?
> And so on....
> Did Openmoko Inc. do any research how many owners come back to the
> mailing lists, contributed,
> so how many are them active? In other words, how much is the yield rate?;)
> More then 13000 piece of hardware (GTA01+GTA02) are significant...
> What I want to say with all this, that any future device should be
> targeted using these findings.
> So if none of the buyers done any hardware mod (beside the bugfixes
> (SD, buzz-fix)), the
> "plan B" target group are basically nonexistent. So building any
> seller plan on them is committed to fail.

  Let me illustrate the flaw in your approach with a historical
  account from my past. Long before the Ipod, the team I worked on built 
and marketed this.

Yup. all before the IPod. When it came time to do the second generation
version, we did the exact kind of survey you suggested above, targeted
to the 100K or so people who had purchased the device.

A bunch of interesting data came out. First and foremost was the following.

1. by huge majorities, HUGE majorities, the users of this device
    did NOT get there music online ( at the time nabster). They ripped
    their CD collections.
2. The average CD collection was 571 CDs. one user owned 5000 CDs.

3. The average age of the buyer was well over 35.

At that time I was arguing that we should:

  1. Target the youth market, because most music is purchased by those
     under 25.

  2. Launch a service to BUY music online ( beleiving that eventually the
                                           record companies would come 

Well, all the data of the survey of users argued against this position.
Young people didnt buy the product ( too expensive) and at that time
young people were stealing music online. Conventional "wisdom" said
that these kids would never "buy" music online.. In fact I think I had 
that question in the survey.

So, here I was arguing against the data. Arguing that young people were
an untapped market and arguing that they would pay for music.

Alas, those crazy ideas of mine were not listened to and the rest
is Ipod itunes history.

This is not to denigrate the functions of surveys in marketing ( 
although one must take great care in constructing them) but rather to 
point out that sometimes surveys give you a rear view mirror of the market.

Finally, looking at the embedded space is not a alternative to what we 
have done. It's an addition.
> Future device:
> In my humble opinion we should clearly find out why the selling was poor.
> So why many buy just didnt happen. I dont know if there are many
> people like me, but
> basically the dealbreaker for me was the look, multitouch and the poor
> community opinion (like non-existent
> graphical performance).
> So my opinion was this: As the software is not matured enough and I do
> not have free time currently tinkering
> with the phone just to be usable as a phone. I can wait until the
> GTA03 comes out with a look which does not
> suck and have a camera and multitouch.
> But I changed my opinion in this (openmoko) situation. As there are
> fears that there will be no more phones,
> I will buy it (GTA02). Just the currency in my country worsened so
> much that it costs me the same now
> (with the huge price drop) as back in august last year.
> So Im waiting for the currency;)) In anyway I will buy it only if it
> is buzz-fixed
> (either wait to v7 or mailing the shop before buying it(which takes
> time and annoying a bit).
> And I would identify myself as a software developer, who wants to
> write an application to the phone.
> So I do not want to fix kernel or system software or telephony
> software (like paroli or shr phone applications),
> but write an independent application for it. I need openmoko because
> it is a small computer with touchscreen
> and extreme battery life. And I can carry it always because it is a
> phone (I do not forget it at home).
> Maybe it is just me who have this opinion and Im not part of any
> target group. But Openmoko Inc. should do
> some *research* if it is really the case.
> Selling:
> (Again) Im not a marketing guy at all. But in my opinion the selling
> wouldnt be improve overnight.
> As the software matures, and people find it useful, the selling will
> improve slowly.
> On the other hand the phone becomes more and more obsolete as more
> sexy phones appears on
> the market, which comes with the conclusion, that regular end-users
> will never be the target group.
   most likely. "regular" end user is a rather vague term.
> (the regular end user always buy the provider's phone with a contract anyway)
> Case:
> Why Openmoko kept the same case for GTA02?

   The cost of new tooling has to be amortized over the units.

   For example. if the tooling costs 200K and you only sell
   2,000 GTA01 then the GTA01 case costs $100.00 for 1 dollar
   of plastic. basically the case remained the same for ecnomic and
   and enginering reasons.
> The case is not sexy at all. Im not blaming because Openmoko designed
> an ugly case.
> Im blaming because openmoko designed a phone(GTA01) selled more then
> 3000 pieces of
> it, and they come out with a completely new phone (GTA02, hardware
> wise) with the
> *same* case.

   Lets see: design on a new case ( the actual design work) would cost
   on the order of 150K plus, not including ME. The tooling charges
   would cost ( using 03 as a guide) on the order of 250K

   So, GTA02 would have had an additional 400K in engineering to
   change the case.. given the forecast, that would have driven
   the street price up by at least 100 dollars or so. not to
   mention the delays in schedule..

> They were not capable to ask the owners and future buyers how they
> like the case.
   We were well aware of the limitations of the case and the limitations
   of its appeal. We were also aware of the apeal of the case to certain
   users. The forecast was sized with these in mind. That is we didnt
   expect huge numbers ( I'd say double what we sold, which is not far
   off given that we had one data point ( GTA01 sales) to work with
   and that data point was corrupted by a stock out. So, I'll put
   everyone in my shoes. I have one data point. we sold less than
   3K GTA01 and we sold out ( because of lack of parts) very early
   in the life of the product. Now you guess how many GTA02 you
   are going to sell in the same case. I guessed 12K in the first 4 
months. we hit around 8K in the first 4 months, around 10K in the first 
6 months. Then we hit the Chasm.

> And again, can somebody point me only one manufacturer which comes out two
> completely different product in the same case and marketing it that way and
> even targeting a different group (developers vs. end users)?

   Just a couple of minor corrections. The 1973 was launched exclusively
   at developers in two different colored cases. The first order of 
business I had was killing the orange case. The plan for the GTA02 was
   to expand the offering from exclusively targeting developers to
   INCLUDING "end users" We figured, specifically end users who...
    1. ran linux on their desktop.
    2. cared more about FOSS than fashion.

   So, the decision was taken, for financial and schedule reasons to
   stick with a case we had in production. The only thing we changed
   was the selection of plastics. The most critical mistake was
   not getting a complete software stack in place for End Users and
   shipping HW that had some issues for everyday use.
> Just look at the auto manufacturers. There are cars which didnt
> improved much, but
> even then, the case is changed. New, fresh look is always a good thing.
   ah well in the CE space you often carry forward an ID with minor minor
   changes ( color or final finish) and fresh looks ( the fashion play)
   is possible only when you have a fully functioning business with
   forecastable run rates.. But For OM you basically had a choice:

    GTA02 in the old case.... or No GTA02.

    and if you look at the GTA03 one could make the argument ( several did)
    that part of the problem was trying to do too much at once.. A new
    case and new EE and a new UI.
> I even remember, that there was many complains (in forums, news sites)
> just about
> the case back in GTA01 starting.
> Community participation in hardware development:
> Facing the facts, there are two key software which simply lacks:
> - EDA, PCB designer software.  The closest free software:
>   kicad:
>   alternative: eagle
> - 3d CAD program. The closest free software:
>   Wildcat-cad:
>   HeeksCAD:
>   BRL-CAD:
> Maybe the PCB designer software can worked around by EAGLE,
> where the community would use the free version of it (designing always a
> part of the phone), and the Openmoko Inc, would work with the full version.
> (integrating the parts together).
> In all other way the Openmoko Inc. should sponsor the development of the
> softwares, which is likely to fail.
> So are the community hardware development viable knowing the lack of software?
> Thank you for reading my long email. It is a bit random and hardly
> connected, sorry for that.
> (Maybe acceptable in this brainstorming phase)
> I try to participate and closely follow this list in the future.
> Best regards,
>  Laszlo
> _______________________________________________
> Gta03 mailing list
> Gta03 at

More information about the Gta03 mailing list