Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: XebiaLabs Blog, Liz McMillan, Klaus Enzenhofer, AppNeta Blog, PagerDuty Blog

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
What sort of WebRTC based applications can we expect to see over the next year and beyond? One way to predict development trends is to see what sorts of applications startups are building. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arin Sime, founder of WebRTC.ventures, will discuss the current and likely future trends in WebRTC application development based on real requests for custom applications from real customers, as well as other public sources of information,
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), will provide an overview of various initiatives to certifiy the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldw...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Infranics will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Since 2000, Infranics has developed SysMaster Suite, which is required for the stable and efficient management of ICT infrastructure. The ICT management solution developed and provided by Infranics continues to add intelligence to the ICT infrastructure through the IMC (Infra Management Cycle) based on mathemat...
Now that the world has connected “things,” we need to build these devices as truly intelligent in order to create instantaneous and precise results. This means you have to do as much of the processing at the point of entry as you can: at the edge. The killer use cases for IoT are becoming manifest through AI engines on edge devices. An autonomous car has this dual edge/cloud analytics model, producing precise, real-time results. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Eng...
In the enterprise today, connected IoT devices are everywhere – both inside and outside corporate environments. The need to identify, manage, control and secure a quickly growing web of connections and outside devices is making the already challenging task of security even more important, and onerous. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Rich Boyer, CISO and Chief Architect for Security at NTT i3, will discuss new ways of thinking and the approaches needed to address the emerging challenges of securit...
The taxi industry never saw Uber coming. Startups are a threat to incumbents like never before, and a major enabler for startups is that they are instantly “cloud ready.” If innovation moves at the pace of IT, then your company is in trouble. Why? Because your data center will not keep up with frenetic pace AWS, Microsoft and Google are rolling out new capabilities In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Don Browning, VP of Cloud Architecture at Turner, will posit that disruption is inevitable for c...
There are 66 million network cameras capturing terabytes of data. How did factories in Japan improve physical security at the facilities and improve employee productivity? Edge Computing reduces possible kilobytes of data collected per second to only a few kilobytes of data transmitted to the public cloud every day. Data is aggregated and analyzed close to sensors so only intelligent results need to be transmitted to the cloud. Non-essential data is recycled to optimize storage.
As businesses adopt functionalities in cloud computing, it’s imperative that IT operations consistently ensure cloud systems work correctly – all of the time, and to their best capabilities. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Bernd Harzog, CEO and founder of OpsDataStore, will present an industry answer to the common question, “Are you running IT operations as efficiently and as cost effectively as you need to?” He will expound on the industry issues he frequently came up against as an analyst, and...
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
"I think that everyone recognizes that for IoT to really realize its full potential and value that it is about creating ecosystems and marketplaces and that no single vendor is able to support what is required," explained Esmeralda Swartz, VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud at Ericsson, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.