Anyone remember Crunchpad? If you forgot about it, its a project initiate by Michael Arrington of techcrunch to build a tablet like device to surft the internet back in 2008. Yes, it was started before the iPad. Hmmm, he should sue Apple for that :)
What's unique about this project is, for me, this is one of the first hardware project (not software development project like many startups try to build) initiate not by a hardware manufacturer or a company. We even can says that it was initiate by a personal idea, backup by the community. They develop the design concept, hardware, mockup, even a prototype by themself. No high profile super high budget reseach and development center included.
Sadly, the project didn't end up very well. But, this wasn't because of the hardware, or the manufacturing problem. It's a legal battle that killed the project.
Anyway..it shows us that this kind a approach to develop and marketed a product is doable in 2008. So..it even become more feasible now in 2011. Today, we have more resource to make it happen. We have kickstarter.com, more accessible hardware source and sure, manufacturing technology is progressing.
So, this leads me a question..why nobody try to do this again?
Personally, i think someone should and can do this, again. Its soo important for them to take this approach. To make sure their idea of perfect open standart internet can be realize..
Who are they? Mozilla
Today, Mozilla (with their Firefox flagship) is still hold many human being gateway to the internet (24% last time i checked), especially on the desktop. They just started move to the mobile devices with Firefox for Android and Meego. But is it enough? Its not. Recent survey said that their market share in declined. If Mozilla is lead by Stephen Elop (of Nokia), he must be said it again. Mozilla is sitting in a burning platform..
Lets see. Who is their main competitor right now? Google Chrome? Apple Safari? or even Internet Explorer? For Mozilla, i think is Google Chrome..its Mozilla closest competitor.
So, what is Google Chrome? It is Google attempt to build a gateway to the internet. Back then, Google has the service, but people is using other party browser to access it. Not anymore..
After some 3 years, look what Google Chrome has become along the way. It was a browser only. But not today, in order to achieve what Google think of perfect internet UX, they decided not only to expand the Chrome from browser to become a complete, self sustain OS, it is expanded even further, to become a devices..a complete laptop. Build from the ground up with the concept that integrate the hardware, industrial design to the UI as a perfect gateway to the internet, or the cloud as people say it now.
If Mozilla want to keep up, in the long run, i think Mozilla could take this direction too. Expand their browser engine to become a full self sustain OS. And at the end, provide a complete experience both from software and hardware.
The Mozilla OS is already began. They had "Boot To Gecko" project and other started to came up with similar idea base on Mozilla technology, like Webian for example.
But not the hardware.
Hardware business model
Today, is hard enough for a new brand/manufacturer to reach global market and marked their existance. In an exhibition like CES or IFA, we often saw some new brand with new idea came to the floor. But they won’t get to the international market most of the time and never had their impact.
If its hard for new brand, how about HP with their WebOS devices?
Its even harder for a non profit organization to do so. Just remember the MIT OLPC project. Mr Negoponte has to go around the world, meeting nation leader to distribute their product.
In my previous post, i imagine Mozilla has to build and distribute their own hardware sets (ultra notebook, tablet and smartphone). Design and build a new hardware is relatively doable (OLPC can do that), but to distribute and market it, thats another story.
Mozilla as a company is similar with MIT OLPC (CMIIW). Its a non profit foundation. But unlike OLPC, they don’t aim their product for kids only. So, no door to door goverment sales trip.
For Mozilla to success, there has to be another business model.
What i think is something more or less like the current most successfull open source hardware distribution model. The Arduino model.
Arduino open source hardware platform
If, somehow, Mozilla dediced to go this way and implemet similar model like Arduino, These are 5 things they have to do.
First, design a product with maximum modularity. Use standar modular parts. Make it common so the price can be low. Mozilla will be the one who purchase it from the OEM. The “branch" then buy from Mozilla and assembled the parts.
My modular concept for Mozilla's devices. Smartphone, tablet and laptop that share some of its module based on arm architecture.
Update 27/09/11. I've got a response via email about the http://elinux.org. The project have some PCMCIA size complete board. This will make the modular concept more visible to design and build. If anyone interested to develop the concept further, feel free to contact me.
Second build a industrial design concept (product-body case, packaging and print material) that can be produce easy around the world using existing facility.
Third. Design a production and quality assurance standar. This is important to gain trust from costumer. And it should be integrated down to the OS itselt to do the QC. Make the OS won’t boot if the hardware spec and quality doesn’t meet the standar requirement.
Forth, build a network of semi independent “branch”. They will be the one that produce and market the hardware locally. With the corrent product concept, the cost of setting up new “branch" can be relatively low. This will encourage local business to take part of this new crowd sourcing business.
Fifth, again..design a global identity and visual communication. From store concept, advertising and so on. Make them unique, clear but can be easily reproduce around the world.
The main advantage of this business model is, Mozilla can keep the cost down, while achieving their goals to bring the perfect internet experience to the world. They also encourage local business, creating more jobs and distribute both wealth and knowledge.
But, this is not the "white box" business model that PC industries have implement. In this case, the hardware is still in Mozilla control to maximum user experience. Only the assembly system is distributed, but all hardware came from Mozilla itself (except the monoblock case, this can be produced locally.
If you had any comment, feel free to drop me an email. I can't activate the comment for my blog, don't know why