[Open-graphics] Announcement: Finally ready to announce OGD1 pre-orders

Timothy Normand Miller theosib at gmail.com
Fri Apr 11 18:34:42 EDT 2008

The OGD1 design has actually been finished for a couple of months now.
 In that time, we've been chasing a chick-and-egg problem.  We can
take all the orders we want, but there's as much as an 8-week lead
time between when we place our order for 100 boards and when we get
them so that we can test and then ship them.  It would be
inappropriate to charge our own customers until we ship to them.  That
leaves us with a $60000 bill to pay before we have any revenue, and
that's too much for Andy, Howard, and I to float on our own.  We
didn't want to make a formal announcement for pre-orders until we
solved this problem.

We have now solved the problem and are ready to take pre-orders.

Traversal's web site is almost ready, and the OHF is working on their
part, so to get things started, I thought we should discuss marketing
strategy on the mailing list.  We need to make multiple simultaneous,
high-profile announcements and word them so as to strongly encourage
Free Software and Open Hardware enthusiasts to place a pre-order for
an OGD1 board.  This involves web sites, articles, ads (where we can
place them for free), and lots of informative materials on what OGD1
is and what they can expect to get out of it.

This is a major milestone for open hardware and free software.  We
need to make it count.  I believe that it is important for the health
of the FOSS community that we maintain momentum on these efforts.
Selling OGD1 and then reinvesting that profit into more open hardware
designs will have a snowball effect on the ability of computer and
electronics hackers everywhere to be able to use, study, modify, and
share the hardware they buy.

Here are some facts about this pre-order situation:

- We have a quote from the fabricator for 100 boards, so we need to
get 100 pre-orders.  In fact, fewer would cover the cost (there is a
profit margin), but there's a risk of people canceling orders while
they're waiting.  Also, we can place a smaller order, but that will
increase the per-unit cost to us, which will affect at least our
developer discount price.  There's also the risk of people placing
bogus pre-orders, and the solution to that is to place holds (not
charges) on each of the credit card orders just before we go ahead
with the fabrication; if we meet the minimum threshold, we do it.

- The retail price is $1500, but the first 100 pre-orders will get a
$100 discount.  For deeper discounts, you can put in a request with
the OHF.  There are two discount levels, $1000 and $700 (depending on
your level of involvement in the OGP), but we are placing strict
limits on them.  (If we can get all 100 pre-orders, the deepest
discount will probably go down to $600.)

- These are pre-orders, not orders.  That means the lead time is
unpredictable.  We don't have a stock.  We will purchase a stock based
on the number of pre-orders we get.  Also, this means that if we never
get a large enough number of pre-orders, we will be unable to fulfill
them; all pre-orders would be canceled, and no one would be charged

- There are issues with regard to international sales that we have yet
to work out.  On the other hand, if we get most of our orders
internationally, we'll be highly motivated to learn what we need to
know to handle it properly.  We know people who know this.  We just
don't know it ourselves yet.

- The HDL code that we want to pre-program into OGD1 isn't finished.
It's likely that we'll have it finished before we get 100 pre-orders,
but there is a chance that it won't be.  We need to he honest about
this without scaring people off.  Basically, what you're ordering is a
"blank" FPGA board that you can program to do what you want.  If you
don't know how to program it, you can't get it to do anything.

- We often get inquiries about the use of OGD1 as a graphics card.  It
can easily-enough function as a graphics card, but for most such uses,
it is badly over-priced.  On the other hand, OGD1 is very
competitively priced as an FPGA development kit.  We need to make it
clear what OGD1 is and why buying one is an important step for Free

- OGD1 is for hardware hackers.  This isn't just about graphics.  If
all you wanted was a graphics card that worked with Free Software,
we've had that for a long time with Matrox, for some time with Intel,
and most recently and significantly with ATI.  Where our graphics
pipeline will be competitive is in embedded systems.  As for long-term
goals of this project, there are many different types of peripherals
for which we do not have good Free Software support; for instance,
wifi.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves here.  OGD1 is for
hardware hackers.  It's for the community of people who want to tinker
with their own hardware ideas, students who want to learn, and
professionals who need a prototyping platform.  And of course full
schematics and design details for OGD1 are offered under the GPL.

- Some technical stuff:  The TV chip still has not been tested.  It's
probably just fine, but we don't know for sure.  The Hirose connector
will be populated.  The IDC connector (the 100-way connector at the
far edge) will not be.  There are other minor details.

- Other things that will come out in the ensuing discussion here.

So, to partially reiterate, here's what we need to produce:

- Articles and interviews
- Ads
- An electronic brochure
- Web pages with detailed information
- Publicity info about OGP, OHF, etc.
- A convincing argument that will make every FOSS enthusiast want to
buy an OGD1 board.

Richard Stallman and the FSF are still interested in helping us with
the publicity.  We need to provide him with appropriate materials.
For some of this, we already have things that can be modified to
include updated info.

Where shall we start?

Timothy Normand Miller
Open Graphics Project

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