For some open source hardware is a tough concept to get their minds around. Too many people get wrapped around the axil of open standards rather than open source. But Peter Semmelhack, CEO of Bug Labs thinks that open source hardware is ushering in a new revolution even greater than open source software has. Combined open source software and hardware will change the world according to Peter.
Bug Labs has been around for a few years now. My friend Brad Feld and another VC, Fred Wilson were big supporters and investors. When I first heard about it through them I have to admit I was one of the doubters. I just didn't get it. Also this was before the mobile space exploded, before Android, before smartphones and tablets. I was thinking PC. Who would want open source PC hardware. The specs for building PCs were pretty standardized by then and you could go to any number of makers to have white box or private labeled boxes built. So what was the big deal?
But Peter never gave up his vision. He believed:
Open source hardware is going to radically redefine hardware design to allow anyone to prototype and bring to market in a way that you just couldn't do it before.
With Bug 2.0 the company is squarely in the mobile hardware space. I asked Peter why mobile? After all with the open source Android OS, there were already like 25 or so hand set makers selling Android phones. Peter said yes there were, but why not 2500 or even 25,000 different Android makers? Each one innovating and making their version a little better/different/cheaper than the next. It is evolution in internet time. They wouldn't have to spend time soldering, designing and testing the hardware. They could put their ideas to market quickly and cheaply.
At first the Bruce Springsteen song about 500 channels on TV and nothing to watch was going through my brain. But the more I thought about it, the more it started to dawn on me. Yes eventually maybe you don't have 2500 or 25,000 handset makers, but it would be like an innovation lab on steroids. That idea sort of got me.
Credit to Peter for having the vision and enthusiasm that drives the BugLabs vision. Every single successful company CEO I have ever met were the biggest supporters of their companies vision.
In the meantime, if you would like to design your own Android phone device (for now you will have to use the 2.x version of Android, the 3.0 is not open sourced yet), you could start doing it with Bug Labs. Open source hardware could change the world, go figure!
What do you think?