The increasing ease with which 3-D parts can be fabricated is often likened to the desktop publishing revolution in the 1980s. But before 3-D printing takes off the way laser printing did, the software and hardware will have to become more affordable still and more intuitive.
"Your grandma won't be doing CAD files," Mosher conceded. "The goal is to reach the community of the people who know how to do this."
But it probably won't be long before tweens are "fabbing" new phone cases every week to keep up with the latest fashion trends.
Last year, OpenMoko released its Neo 1973 handset for developers; the phone is currently sold out. The company's first consumer release, the Neo FreeRunner ($450), is slated for release sometime this spring. A $600 advanced version for developers is also planned.
OpenMoko is an independent subsidiary of FIC, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer. The company was founded on the premise that devices should be completely open. "The thought was that if you freed the software up to people outside the company, you'd unleash an army of Davids, who had at least as much imagination as people inside the company," said Mosher. "The makers of things that are outside the company will help us create insanely great products."
He added, "You wouldn't see Apple saying, 'Here are the CAD files for the iPhone.' "
As Mosher sees it, mobile phone makers aren't nearly as open as they claim to be. What most companies mean by open, he said, is not completely closed. Even Google's Android stack, he said, isn't entirely open because the device drivers aren't under the GNU General Public License.
"If Android were truly open source from top to bottom, someone would put it on our phones," said Mosher. "We would put it on our phones."
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