New Release 2.0: Open Source Hardware

As a trusted colleague suggested recently, putting the words “open,” “source,” and “hardware” next to one another in a sentence is a sure way to cure insomnia among business people. But, before those non-alpha geeks among you click away, you might want to know what the alpha geeks know: that open source hardware is looking like it will be a big part of the future of manufacturing and beyond. As we’ve covered here, here, here, and plenty of other places, we’re seeing more and more early but strengthening signals that open source is about a lot more than software. Open source changed the business of software irrevocably, in ways ranging from how we produce and license software to how we maintain and distribute it. It’s starting to happen with hardware, too.

In the new issue of Release 2.0, now in subscribers’ hands and available for sale to new subscribers and those interested in purchasing a single issue, we consider some of the key questions about open source hardware. What part of hardware can be open? How will communities participate in its development? What business models will make it attractive and profitable? How can production of the components be managed to keep projects open and at the same time affordable? The issue, written by Jeanette Borzo and me, looks at the current state of open source hardware and its emerging role in business. In Borzo’s “The Secrets Big Companies Should Know About Open Source Software,” we offer a practical roadmap for companies assessing the benefits of this business model.

A fundamental article of faith at O’Reilly Media, one justified over and over, is that it’s hackers, innovators, and alpha geeks–in a word, hobbyists–who provide the most reliable early warning signals as to where technology and the business of technology are going. As we explore in this issue of ‘Release 2.0, it’s the promise of open source hardware that’s entrancing many of those emerging leaders.

Also in this issue, we feature our usual departments. “The Number” evaluates how the international social-networking market looks much different from the U.S. one, “The Canon” suggests two slender, provocative volumes that can change the way you see your business, and “Calendar” highlights some of the technology and business events on our radar over the next few months. The Radar team will be at plenty of them, even those we’re not organizing, and we hope to see you there.

You can find out more about Release 2.0, download a sample excerpt from the new issue, and either subscribe (we publish six times a year) or purchase the new issue at /r2/.