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Why Open Source Ecosystems Make Good Business Sense

QuickLogic just announced that we have joined the Open Hardware Group (also known as OpenHW Group), an organization which describes itself as “a not-for-profit, global organization driven by its members and individual contributors where hardware and software designers collaborate in the development of open-source cores, related IP, tools, and software.” Joining this group underscores our commitment to the depth and breadth of our open source hardware and software and complements the efforts we’ve already made in that arena through our QuickLogic Open Reconfigurable Computing (QORC) initiative.

We didn’t embrace the open source concept overnight, and we didn’t do it without a lot of deep reflection regarding the impacts this might have on our business in the future. In fact, for decades we and every other programmable logic manufacturer focused our efforts on proprietary tools, architectures, IP, and development boards. Our thinking then was to entice customers into our “walled garden” of an ecosystem and then shut the gate tightly behind them. Our ideal model for the gate was somewhat like a diode, allowing customers to pass one way into our world but never the other way – keeping them committed to our proprietary environment for life.

However, it is time for our philosophy to evolve. For several years now we have been working on developing solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT) market. This space has huge potential, but it is also highly fragmented and addressing it effectively requires going far beyond a “one size fits all” approach. Highly fragmented, rapidly evolving markets have always loved programmable logic for the high degree of flexibility it provides, but to be successful we needed to embrace flexibility in all aspects of our ecosystem. Open sourcing provides that flexibility and brings with it a host of other advantages.

For example, by lowering the barrier to entry to our technology, we get broader exposure and actually reduce our cost of sales. Crowd sourcing complements and helps accelerate and better leverage our R&D efforts and allows solutions to develop organically, adapting to fill multiple niches and evolving more quickly towards the best fit for particular classes of problems. It also meshes well with the SensiML AI and machine learning software tools, and our eFPGA technology – both of which have very high value for a wide range of IoT applications.

Note that these last two are proprietary technologies which you could argue are not themselves open sourced. But embracing open source tools doesn’t necessarily mean giving away our valuable software and hardware IP for free. Instead, it means embracing an ecosystem that encourages collaboration and innovation and which makes our IP accessible to a broad audience of potential new customers. Having that ecosystem be open source actually increases the value of our IP and makes it more likely to be the vehicle of choice for implementing new intelligent and adaptive edge IoT applications.

And that’s our ultimate goal – create value, make it easily useable and highly accessible, and then enjoy the resulting benefits for our customers, our shareholders, and ourselves. We believe that supporting open source tooling is the right approach to achieve that end.

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