Text why pro­pri­et­ary or no hard­ware docs hurt the man­u­fac­turer

I stumbled about a text which de­scribes why it is be­ne­fi­cial to dis­close hard­ware pro­gram­ming docs and why it doesn’t help in keep­ing this in­form­a­tion away from the com­pet­i­tion. I don’t re­peat it here, so go and read it.

It’s a little bit old (last mod­i­fied in 2003), but IMO still up-​to-​date. If someone ap­proaches a com­pany for hard­ware docs, please provide this link to them!

Un­for­tu­nately it fails to men­tion that it would even be nice to get docs for ob­sol­ete or not sup­por­ted any­more hard­ware (if your com­pet­i­tion learns even stuff from your hard­ware which is 3 – 4 gen­er­a­tions old, it is not really a com­pet­i­tion and you most prob­ably are lead­ing be­cause of in­nov­a­tion, if not you either are too ex­pens­ive and open­ing the docs would be a reas­on to buy re­gard­less, or your soft­ware de­vel­op­ment is not good enough and open­ing the docs would al­low users to fix this prob­lem them­selves). This could be a first step for a com­pany to “test the wa­ter”. It would be an in­vest­ment without any money in re­turn (the com­pany doesn’t sell such hard­ware any­more), but it would show the com­pany how it af­fects their im­age, how much they have to in­vest and what they can get in re­turn (when people do cre­at­ive things with your ob­sol­ete hard­ware you haven’t ima­gined be­fore, you can bet they can do the same with your cur­rent hard­ware too… you may get an en­tirely new mar­ket “for free”).

If you ap­ply some more thoughts about this top­ic and for ex­ample graph­ic cards, you even no­tice that any in­form­a­tion the com­pet­i­tion may get by look­ing at freely avail­able hard­ware docs for graph­ic cards (in­stead of re­verse en­gin­eer­ing it), can only be used 2 – 3 in­nov­a­tion cycles later. This is caused by the short turn around times between new graph­ic cards. When a new graph­ic card hits the mar­ket, a de­vel­op­ment team already works at the second next gen­er­a­tion (and the next gen­er­a­tion is most prob­ably not only in fea­ture freeze but at the bug fix­ing and per­form­ance en­hance­ment step). Now, how much value does the com­pet­i­tion gain from this? I would say only the money needed for the re­verse en­gin­eer­ing. At the same time you gain money from hard­ware sales from those people which use (the res­ult of) your hard­ware docs. And the com­pet­i­tion is re­quired to open their docs too (see be­low for the “com­puter freaks” part), so you can safe the money for the re­verse en­gin­eer­ing later too.

For sound­cards this is a little bit dif­fer­ent. There you don’t have such short cycles, but cur­rently there you have a pub­lished stand­ard (HDA) and you have Cre­at­ive with no docs at all on the oth­er side. Hey, Cre­at­ive, if you stumble upon this, what about kick­ing Mi­crosoft in the ass by provid­ing your hard­ware doc­u­ment­a­tion to any­one and be­ne­fit­ing from a lot of people which are pissed off be­cause their shiny Creative-​gear doesn’t work on Vista? I’m sure a lot of people are will­ing to spend their free time to find a way to make your hard­ware useable on Vista (and on oth­er OS“) without get­ting money from you. And I’m sure people will find a way to get stuff out of your hard­ware which makes your eyes fall out of your head (and in­creases hard­ware sales). Oh… yes… hey, VIA, what about the docs for your soundgear too? There’s no mar­ket for selling hard­ware docs, but a huge mar­ket to sell sound hard­ware. And those people which play around with non-​mainstream soft­ware are those people (com­puter freaks) which re­com­mend hard­ware to people (mom, dad, neigh­bors, friends) which don’t play around but just use main­stream soft­ware. Those “or­din­ary” people may not de­pend on your hard­ware docs, but the com­puter freaks will more likely re­com­mend stuff which works not only on the main­stream stuff (just in case someone wants to try some non-​mainstream stuff).

The same (com­puter freaks re­com­mend­ing hard­ware) is true for cable TV /​ satel­lite TV /​ … stuff.