Friday, 25 September 2009

The FOSS community finally gets a dose of China ..

I notice that the FOSS people are finally being bitten by the Chinese problem. The rest of us in CE have, of course, had this problem for years - there are manufacturers out there whose business model is to buy a new product, suck the software image out, reverse-engineer the hardware and then sell their own cut-price version - and more OEMs who do this on the side, selling off-label cut-price versions of the products they make for western consumers to the generic domestic market, from where they naturally turn up here.

There's no effective way to stop this short of tivoisation, which is why it's such a popular tactic and why GPL3 is particularly invidious in CE: none of us want to tivoise our products - it's stupid, time-consuming and difficult (plus we want to hack them ourselves). But if we don't, we get maybe two months' grace before our software gets knocked off and the product driven off the market.

This is a natural side-effect of Asian manufacturing economics: anything you make in the UK will always be more expensive than in the far east, because the far east has much lower regulatory compliance costs - they're allowed to run machines that no-one in the UK would countenance, under lax employment law and with no IP enforcement to speak of.

So perhaps the free software community will be a little more forgiving to those of us who lock them out of our products in future; we're really not that evil (well, some of us aren't) - just trying to get some sort of return on our investment before we're instantly outcompeted.

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