Open-source hardware hasn't really taken off...yet. But Dave Rosenberg today alerted me to a new player in the space from BugLabs, which hopes to develop in much the same way that open-source software does. Here's BUG's premise:
BUG is a collection of easy-to-use, open source hardware modules, each capable of producing one or more Web services. These modules snap together physically and the services connect together logically to enable users to easily build, program and share innovative devices and applications. With BUG, we don't define the final products - you do.
Silicon Alley Insider took a look and likes what it saw. But the most interesting thing from its report was how small the (initial) market is:
Semmelhack says Bug will initially target gadget hobbyists/engineers, a market he pegs around 40,000 people. But Bug's long-term commercial success will likely depend more on how useful their lego-like mobile gadget is to companies looking to build hundreds or thousands of devices based on its platform.
In other words, its developer "market" is small, but its end-user market could be huge, depending on how consumer device manufacturers glom on to it. Not surprisingly, open-source software operates much the same: a small core of developers does the vast majority of the work on any given project, with thousands (or millions) of end-customers benefiting from the result. Think Firefox. Or Linux. Or OpenBravo. Or...you get the picture.
Few builders, many users. It works for open-source software. It should work for open-source hardware. Give the BUG a look.