Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Cynthia Dunlop, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Linux Containers

Open Source Cloud: Article

Open Source Hardware

Applying the principles of Open Source to the laptop

The benefits of commodity hardware are well known. Competition among memory, storage, and chip providers has benefited the consumer and driven down PC prices. My belief is that the next big "open opportunity" is for the Open Source commodity laptop. The consumer would be rewarded by applying to hardware, specifically laptops, the same principles that have made Open Source software a success. Desktop PCs are fairly easy to repair and your local electronics superstore likely has all the parts to repair them. There are also plenty of local repair shops competing to fix them. This isn't the case with laptops. As laptop sales surpass desktops, I believe there's growing demand for local vendors to not only sell but fully service laptops on-site.

Even though laptop parts are fairly common (storage and RAM can be bought locally), every chassis is different. This is contrary to the desktop PC where there are common form factors including ATX, MicroATX, FlexATX, and BTX. The same goes for power supplies. When it comes to laptops that's simply not the case; batteries vary by model as do screens and keyboards. Parts are usually available only from the manufacturer. What happens five years later when the laptop is no longer produced? You're stuck with a disposable product that is fixed into a short-term lifecycle.

If you're a Windows user, you could be forced into paying for an operating system as well since the license is probably not transferable to the new machine even if you want to move the hard drive (check your Windows end-user license agreement to be sure). It's an expensive perpetual upgrade cycle.

I mentioned this idea to a colleague who got very excited about this prospect of an open laptop. He then turned a critical eye towards me and asked, if this idea had merit, wouldn't this commoditization apply to automobiles? His question was, "Why did we have so many models of automobiles and not just one that could be customized?" My less-than-quick reply was, "The automobile market is more efficient with lots of competition, and due to a certain level of standardization we have many sources of parts and service. There is even an ecosystem of customizers who can and do alter the base model. I don't have those same options for my laptop."

That's the benefit I want. To buy all laptop parts locally or have them serviced at my local PC repair shop. My experience has been that most laptops require shipment to a repair facility; on-site repairs are only available under costly service contracts. If you could get your parts locally you could save transit time and lost productivity. You could also upgrade more easily since the parts would no longer be limited to a single laptop model. When your laptop gets banged up, you could cost-effectively buy a standard laptop form factor shell and migrate parts from one to another at no additional costs. Consider the time saved just moving the hard drive to the updated chassis rather than doing a full-on data migration.

Open hardware isn't an unheard of idea. Sun has open sourced its UltraSparc T1 chip. Samsung has done the same with its OneNAND embedded memory. What does that mean to vendor and consumer? I believe the potential is there for other manufacturers to fabricate these chips as alternatives to Sun's contracted suppliers and introduce competition into the market. Sun would welcome other vendors selling the chip to give it multiple suppliers. In turn it would realize the benefits from increased competition and redundancy in its supply chain and be able to pass savings on to the consumer (the cynic in me might think differently but it sounds good in theory). Sun would still make a profit supporting and selling software for this commoditized hardware, as Microsoft does on Intel and AMD chips.

If you advance this idea one step forward, consider a laptop builder who did the same for a standard laptop design, giving the specs for power supplies, compatible motherboards, and other details that entrepreneurially minded components makers could produce. In the beginning they might make the whole laptop, a baseline model ripe for upgrades; others could join the supply chain. Each one could provide its own value-added services. For example, one vendor could specialize in making cool neon colors or titanium cases. Another could focus solely on designing power supplies that reduce the amount of heat generated. Battery companies could innovate around battery life. The result would be innovation driven by competition.

Back to my entrepreneurially minded friend, who asks, "Why would a company do this and how would it make money?" I think if you wanted to enter the laptop market and compete with Dell, Gateway, HP, and Lenovo, you'd need a lot of capital. But if you formed a co-op of sorts you could compete at that level rather quickly by distributing the capital outlay among the ecosystem, or over time it would evolve, as would the breadth and options of your product with each vendor focusing specifically on its own value-added service. Maybe it's assembly, high-end upgrades, or technical support (driver development and other services). Developing technology products can be very difficult to do well on all fronts. If you could focus on one area that would make you competitive, the end product would be better, also the laptop designers could focus on their core competency. AOpen does this to some degree already with its white box line and would be a logical company to take the concept one step further.

iGo (www.igo.com), a mobility electronics supplier, has recognized the need for competition. iGo makes mobile chargers and external batteries that connect everything from notebooks and MP3 players to mobile phones. However, it offers some interesting enhancements including modular tips to fit different models and types of electronic devices. It also addresses the different power source needs of the mobile computer by offering adapters that can draw power from standard outlets, airplanes, and automobiles. This is somewhat innovative since now you can get more use out of your charger. Actually its usable life can outlast your laptop's since it offers iTips that connect to present as well as future devices.

Besides flexibility, another benefit of an open laptop should be quality of service. In the desktop PC market, IDC's 2002 report showed that white box vendors accounted for 58% of total worldwide PC sales. With the shift from desktop to laptop, it would seem that same opportunity could and should be addressed by "whitelap" vendors. Since the parts would be more widely available, smaller service shops could specialize in servicing this new breed of laptop. Supply chains could be established in the same way as they are for RAM and storage. Also, since there would be fewer barriers to entry, these vendors could compete on service, including premium support that lives up to its billing. Repairs could be made at a local level by professionals that you have a relationship with, not a call center employee in another country. You would also have a choice not only in hardware but software where the market demand would drive operating system choices, not deals between mega-vendors. A Linux laptop could be an option that doesn't penalize vendors who are obligated to pay a fee for every machine shipped.

Even in the era of the open laptop I wouldn't say that there would be no place for the Dells of the world, in fact with their huge buying power they will probably be able to compete on price indefinitely. In fact they would likely have the same place as Wal-Mart does in household goods where its buying power and logistical efficiency allows it to be a price leader. That's where the advantage would end, however. I believe as we become more dependent on our PCs, as I am, this market would be better serviced by the local vendor who is paid for his expertise and for reselling replacement parts. I will welcome the day when I can buy my laptop from someone that I can develop a personal relationship with and can address my needs completely and locally. How about you?

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

Comments (3) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
SYS-CON Brazil News Desk 04/20/06 07:45:53 AM EDT

The benefits of commodity hardware are well known. Competition among memory, storage, and chip providers has benefited the consumer and driven down PC prices. My belief is that the next big 'open opportunity' is for the Open Source commodity laptop. The consumer would be rewarded by applying to hardware, specifically laptops, the same principles that have made Open Source software a success. Desktop PCs are fairly easy to repair and your local electronics superstore likely has all the parts to repair them. There are also plenty of local repair shops competing to fix them. This isn't the case with laptops. As laptop sales surpass desktops, I believe there's growing demand for local vendors to not only sell but fully service laptops on-site.

Enterprise Open Source Magazine News Desk 04/19/06 06:24:39 PM EDT

The benefits of commodity hardware are well known. Competition among memory, storage, and chip providers has benefited the consumer and driven down PC prices. My belief is that the next big 'open opportunity' is for the Open Source commodity laptop. The consumer would be rewarded by applying to hardware, specifically laptops, the same principles that have made Open Source software a success. Desktop PCs are fairly easy to repair and your local electronics superstore likely has all the parts to repair them. There are also plenty of local repair shops competing to fix them. This isn't the case with laptops. As laptop sales surpass desktops, I believe there's growing demand for local vendors to not only sell but fully service laptops on-site.

Enterprise Open Source Magazine News Desk 04/19/06 06:24:09 PM EDT

The benefits of commodity hardware are well known. Competition among memory, storage, and chip providers has benefited the consumer and driven down PC prices. My belief is that the next big 'open opportunity' is for the Open Source commodity laptop. The consumer would be rewarded by applying to hardware, specifically laptops, the same principles that have made Open Source software a success. Desktop PCs are fairly easy to repair and your local electronics superstore likely has all the parts to repair them. There are also plenty of local repair shops competing to fix them. This isn't the case with laptops. As laptop sales surpass desktops, I believe there's growing demand for local vendors to not only sell but fully service laptops on-site.

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...
SYS-CON Events announced today Object Management Group® has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
Customer experience has become a competitive differentiator for companies, and it’s imperative that brands seamlessly connect the customer journey across all platforms. With the continued explosion of IoT, join us for a look at how to build a winning digital foundation in the connected era – today and in the future. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Nguyen, Group Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how to successfully leverage mobile, rapidly deploy content, capture real-time d...
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC Software has been named "Siver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. BMC is a global leader in innovative software solutions that help businesses transform into digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive advantage. BMC Digital Enterprise Management is a set of innovative IT solutions designed to make digital business fast, seamless, and optimized from mainframe to mo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 200 develope...
SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer's modular architecture, full-featured API, and sophisticated automation provide unparalleled performance and control. Its flexible unified platform seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices linked via a world...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...