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Meeting With Netpliance

Nik posted more than 14 years ago | from the NP:-Bodyrock dept.

Hardware 255

Kalin R. Harvey writes: "Last week I wrote an article which dealt with the i-opener net appliance from Netpliance that everyone was so excited about hacking last month. The response from the community has been great, a lot of people really liked it. So did Netpliance it seems. I was recently contacted by their CTO, Marc Willebeek-LeMair, and asked to meet with the company at their headquarters "to brainstorm about the various issues" raised in the article. He described my article as "intriguing", and I found the message to be very positive overall; it means they have been listening. It means there is a good chance that they want to do the right thing. We haven't set a firm date yet, but are hammering out the details now. What I want is to get from the /. community and the i-opener-hacker community is feedback. Put aside the bad blood that has been brewing between the open source community and the company since they decided to thwart the hack. Look honestly at the situation and consider the issues involved. What would you say to the decision-makers at Netpliance if you had the chance?"

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i-opener (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140450)

I'll buy two (modifiable) right now for $300 each - and then I can get rid of two of the space heaters in my computer room- If you were to add built in 10baseT ethernet, stick linux/netscape6 on the unit and you have yourself an ADSL pret-a-porte email/browser/terminal, etc,etc,etc....just what I could use in every room in my house.

Its all perectly simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140451)

If you were familiar with the Dilbert cartoon, you will know that a Troll is one of the guardians of Catbert's (the HR manager) domain. These Trolls prevent anyone who has a legitimate reason for seeing Catbert from getting in.

It seems curious that after a detailed investigation into the community you seem to have been totally unable to understand some of the simplest terminology. However, to help you get startted, here's a quick rundown of some of the more common ones here:

pr0n - Slang term for PowerOn/Off, corrupted to also apply to on/offline. Where can I download some pr0n means where can I get some offline downloaders

Flame - An insightful discussion or idea

FlameBait - A comment that evolves into a Flame

Re:My perspective on this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140453)

Wrong- Slashdot is the digital equivalent of the mens room wall. The morons and trolls and the flamers do not speak for most of the Linux professionals I know - I believe, after having been involved with this "community" for over 6 years that since Linux became a fad item that the signal to noise ratio is about 1 to 1 at this point. My only hope is that the hipness factor wears itself out and these idiots leave.

But they need ethernet!!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140454)

USB is too immature under linux and PLIP means having to buy **EXPENSIVE** parallel to ethernet devices that nullify the cheapness advantage of the I-Opener. I mean a 100BastT ethernet card costs what, $10 today? Why this wasn't build onto the mboard is a mystery. Didn't they think some people might want to use Netpliance's own ISP over a DSL or cablemodem? And don't say "who would want a proprietary ISP if they have DSL/Cable because AOL supports this option and people use it.

Suggestions... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140456)

One 99$ model with ISP obligation, one $299 model with no service obligation. Push the ISP service independently of the i-openers. At one point, use of their ISP service by way of a pc cost was listed at $26 vs. the $22 with the i-opener. Have they changed this? If not, they should. $20 coupons for I-openers for referring users to the ISP.

Why "lenient"? I'd rather they be greedy!;) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140457)

That is, I'd prefer they sell as many as they can, as soon as possible.

The processors aren't that powerful -- the main thing is that cool flat screen, which is "space-saving" and all kinds of other justifications but at heart we all know that it wins aesthetically at least as much as practically;)

I want them to say "We can sell boatloads of these if we price them near our cost. Maybe we'll even sell some of the ISP service to the bulk of people who /don't/ want to run Linux or FreeBSD on it!" (As opposed to the current situation, which is "We can sell boatloads of these if we price them well *below* our cost and require the ISP service.")

Netpliance: A lot of people would pay $300 for an open version of your hardware:)

curmudgeon

Re:Let's be honest (1)

Pierce (154) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140458)

I would as long as I could upgrade it some. Which is why I don't currently have a hacked one either...

Re:Change your business model. Now. (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140463)

People flocked to the i-opener because it was cheap. At $99 or even $200 it's a bargain. But at a more realistic price of perhaps $600, the market dries up again.

Perhaps, but instead of giving a few Netpliances away, perhaps they should look at selling the "advanced" units at or near cost (perhaps via a rebate, so only one cheapie per person), so they'll get free open source hackers working on it. There's still definitely a market for the cheapie machine as originally tasked.

Re:Changes to I-Opener (1)

Dr.Whiz-Bang (4662) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140472)

hmmm. what you have describes is known as a "laptop" or "notebook," and i beleive the market is fairly saturated with those already. $499? give me a break... it cost THEM nearly that just for the 3 year-old hardware that they are shipping in the current models.

gg

sucks to be netpliance... (1)

Dr.Whiz-Bang (4662) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140473)

problem with open source is that hackers are really going to have a hard time contributing to the i-opener since it is running QNX. the first thing any one of us would do with it when we hack it would be to install linux, or something else. netpliance is not going to switch their platform from QNX to anything else - if they did, they would have hackers around the world tweaking that 16 megs of rom to see what little enhancements could fit. they could have something like the palm, or the c64 on their hands, and i-opener could become a viable platform. but all current hacks destroy netpliances source of revenue (the ISP) and so they are not very helpful to QNX. to be worth their while they need to maintain their "system" intact on the box. good luck...

gg

not gonna happen. was Re:My Wishlist... (1)

Dr.Whiz-Bang (4662) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140474)

The biggest expense that these guys could possibly encounter would be to change something in the manufacturing process (that is, besides a bunch of geeks buying the iopener and not paying for hte service). These boxes are cranked out as quickly and as cheaply as possible to keep their cost on the box as low as possible. If you want those features, the best you could hope for would be to build them yourself - that's the hack value of the box.

gg

Re:Changes to I-Opener (1)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140490)

And just how do you plan on fittint all that into half an inch's worth of expansion to the thickness. And there is no way to just add all of that without redesigning the board, which I suspect NP just purchase in wholesale from a distributer.

If you really want something like this, get the IO for whatever price, 160 with the 3 month contract. Go out and get a cheap p133 with ether and sound built in, crack open the IO, yank the board, replace it with the board you purchased (I have seen p133 embedded boards (about the size of a CD jewel case) for $250). In the end you have a hacked up device with all that you asked for, for around $160 + $250.

cost of the "hack" i-opener (1)

djinn87 (24245) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140494)

as many other people have already said, selling these at cost (estimated at around $400 us) would make them unappealing. the coolness of the hack is in taking a cheap machine and making it into something useful. that said, there must be some way for netpliance to recoup the money that they're losing while still making their product attractive to hackers. this was the key of the article [freshmeat.net] that has sparked the interest.

the obvious way to recover cost is through leveraging the r&d costs of the open source development model. netpliance should set up a lot of different developer relations and support sites. they should give developers access to time with the engineers who designed the thing and maybe devote an engineer to trying out prototypes and the like. then the $100-$200 they lose on the cost of the items can be made up in free staffing and r&d. the neat things that hackers think of can then be resold by netpliance.

plus think of the positive press (first open source hardware company?) and coolness factor the company would gain (much less possible stock boon).

frustration (1)

gimpboy (34912) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140505)

what i want to know is why they seem to have plenty iopeners to send to compusa, but they cannot fill orders placed at their company (phone/web) from before march 19th.

i know that my intentions dont fall within their 'business model'-i make no illusions otherwise. what about the people who do want to use the netpliance like it was intended. if they ordered during that time they are screwed.

that aside. the company seems very unorganized and unable to communicate issues to their sales people. i also feel that they avoid the truth when confronted (gee i dont want to call them liars).


john

"just the flatscreen monitor would be pretty fly" (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140510)

Agreed. For around $100, you can easily get a (cheapy, but working) 14-15" monitor in most American towns that can support three hamburger shops. (On the basis that they also have a WalMart) ;) You may have to wait for the monthly electronics sale circular, but I don't think that price is off base.

That monitor, though, is likely to have bad color, awful curvature, slow warm-up, bad controls, poor refresh rate and poor resolution. It may even rattle loudly when moved (loose guts of some sort) like the Magnavox SVGA I had the misfortune to buy from Computer Renaissance 2 years ago. For the screen size, it will also be incredibly bulky. [Yes, this is all hyphothetical, but I would love to be proved wrong;) ]

I think a small -- say as small as the i-opener -- flat screen display would be a much better low-end monitor than a low-end CRT. What it loses in screen space it gains in edge-to-edge consistency, quick warmup, ease of transport, ease of placement. Add some mounting holes (to suspend from the ceiling) and a tripod mount, too;)

Cheap LCDs' biggest problem is viewing angle -- the best ones from NEC have a much wider angle, and so do some of the newer ones from various other companies, at least so say hardware reviews.

But if someone (Netpliance would be nice, since though they may not have the production lines for this, certainly have lines on bulk LCDs of an appropriate size and a key to the back door of Circuit City) would market a smallish, cheapish LCD monitor, I wouldn't worry about screen angle too much. I would just be happy to slap a less space-intrusive output device on the old P-90. Again, I'm suggesting this would make a great low-entry-level display, nothing more.

Power savings from LCDs are a nice side benefit, too, but *most* users a) won't notice b) won't care and c) don't keep their computers on 24/7, and don't have a bedroom full of computers. Schools and businesses, though, are another story. There's a lot of snookering in "TCO" figures, naturally, but any place with hundreds of units has to take energy savings a little more seriously.

timothy

Alternative uses (1)

hndrcks (39873) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140512)

Open Source help is a good way to expand the possibilites... how about thin client / NC for connection to M$ terminal server, Citrix, and Sun's NetRay stuff. Most of the current clients for these are pricey ($500 and up without monitor!)

A $250 - $300 thin client terminal has BIG possibilities. Needs a pointing device, though.

Re:Change your business model. Now. (1)

TheDeal (41885) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140513)

They stand to make a lot of money from their current model. Everyone knows of the "pay 21.95 a month for the next 3 years, get $400 off the cost of anything at BestBuy/CompUSA" They are selling a $200 dollar machine (maybe $600 to actually make) not to profit from the machine directly but rather to profit from service bought on a month to month basis.

What I Would Relly Like (1)

Clevo (51205) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140517)

14.1 XGA, Onboard NIC w/boot prom, USB. Price point less than $1000US. This would be a great product for home/small offices.

What would I say? (1)

Geordon (58730) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140521)

My GHOD, man! These devices have such INCREDIBLY wide possibilities, they should really be a little more leniant. Cheap kisoks and corporate network nodes are jsut two of the things that leap to my mind. (Just think of the marketing possibilities!)

$99 no hacking, $500 hacking w/ flatscreen (1)

Rares Marian (83629) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140535)

I definitely think it's worth it. Now just add a wireless FM keyboard and Linux drivers and it's over for the desktops.

We shouldn't expect Something for Nothing (1)

twivel (89696) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140538)

I think what excited everyone and got so much attention to NetPliance was initially the Something for Nothing deal. To an extent, it seems like that sentiment still exists and is driving posts by people here, who quote prices in the 300.00 range.

You're a company, you've got to make a profit. You can't waste resources at the company selling these products at hardware cost. Thats a losing venture and I don't think anyone here would argue with you on that.

I honestly have no idea what these things cost to produce, but at this point you almost have no choice but to go the route of normal ISP's. You probably can't afford to keep, organize and produce two models of your netpliance unit.

Pick a price, sell the unit for retail with a rebate if you sign up for service and leave the IDE slot on the mainboard. Sell upgrade parts, at decent markup as well, to turn them into linux computers. Even sell pre-installed Linux Devices. Have them pre-configured to use your ISP, or include notes on how to make them do that. The linux community is thrilled with choices, give us the option to use your ISP and we might actually take it. Either way, you made a profit on the selling of the computer anyway.

And I'm sure your thinking... "What If I had just never put that IDE slot on the original I-Opener." Well, for one, you sure wouldn't have got the publicity you've got so far, albeit some is negative. Now, you stand to gain something from all of the publicity if you handle the situation correctly, even the negative publicity.

--
Twivel

What I would say (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140539)

Excellent article, I think you caught the main points. My two cents - I am not sure the idea of selling "pre-hacked" models is a winner - first off any complication in the assembly line increases costs, second it seems possible that part of the appeal of the thing IS having to hack it yourself. But definately back off from the do not hack bs, definately sell it two at two different prices, one a loss leader with the isp obligation, the other at just over cost for the developers. Just over cost because the cheaper it is the more will be bought to be hacked, and netpliance should realise a gain in terms of technology on this down the road so it's still worthwhile.

The current situation cannot be favourable to them - even with the 90 day ISP requirement the thing is *still* a loss if that's all they get - comes to around $160 including the required ISP payments no? It's a tough spot they are in, but if they play it just right they could really do well. The trick is how to offer the non-techs the sort of attractive, loss-leader deal that will get them to order it, while making sure that the hackers actually pay enough they don't take a loss on those units.

The legal prohibition on hacking the boxes that are bought with service, combined with the availability of the same hardware at a reasonable price without the service and with a license to hack it, might work. Whether or not it would really depends on the morality of the hackers - I certainly hope that most of us would willingly pay $300 instead of $166 and not drive them out of business, but I cannot be sure of that, and if I were at netpliance I would be worried about that. Perhaps there would be a hardware change that is simple enough to not drive the cost up, but would make the hackable version worth a lot more to the geeks? Maybe a nic, or a larger flash chip...

Re:How Netpliance can (and CAN'T) make money. (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140540)

The problem is that folks get skittish about extended contracts. If they do that, they can count on selling fewer units. Barring the geeks that want to hack the things, the original idea was the best - no required contract to scare customers off, but not usable really without it, so most customers *will* keep the contract up anyway.

The hacking of the boxes really threw a kink in their plans, even if it was predictable to us, they obviously didn't see it coming. They need to figure out how to offer a hackable box that will be attractive enough to the geeks that we don't buy the loss-leader model, cheaply. Using a larger flash and adding a cheap ethernet jack might be just the ticket...

Netpliance and i-Opener thoughts.... (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140541)

Top Six things Netpliance can do with what they got......

6. Keep things the way they are...(and be out of business in 6 months.)

5. Make it unhackable (and not sell as many or any)

4. Charge more for one without service.

3. Charge more for one without service, and make it able to use ANY ISP without modification.

2. Make it free with service, 99 bucks without.(come on guys, we are talking marginal hardware here so far as how modern it is...I still see no way it costs 400 bucks to make especially with the volume hackable units could sell at if they actually kept up with demand).

1. Make the current one for pc illiterates, and make a full fledged PC, complete with HD and CD-ROM based on the current one, and sell it with Linux (no M$ tax!).

I have not read all of the comments, but most are saying keep it hackable. Why? So you can get something for nothing. I know alot of people who would love to have a full pc this small, and would love only having to pay 400-500 bucks for it. So why just make it hackable.....why not make a full fledged machine out of it and show people how good Linux can be on hardware like what's in the current i-Opener. It's good for Netpliance, good for Linux and even better for us because we would not have to waste time hacking it. Heck I know companies who would love something such as this in a POS terminal. It's small, doesn't cost alot and would do everything you would need at the Point of Sale. It would also be a great kiosk like machine for central free or modestly priced intenet machines. The possiblities are endless! I have seen no PC manufacturer that has something this small in that price range (even if they were 400-500 bucks). The thing is great! Netpliance would be fools if they didn't take advantage of this opportunity!

Re:New Business Model (1)

Change (101897) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140543)

> After all - this would be just like the 'free cell phone' business model: not buying the service contract means you pay $300 for the phone. I think there are a lot of people that would pay $400-$500 for an iOpener.

I know for me, and for everyone else that I personally know that bought one of these, the $99 price was the main factor involved. There's no way in hell I'd have plunked down that much cash for a device that ran about the speed of a Pentium 150 and had no hard drive included...

Open it up baby!!! (1)

PromethiumInfrmation (102507) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140546)

Lock it down, and risk locking yourself out. IMHO, if you publish the specs, i am convinced you will see a plethora of apps quickly become ported to it.

How To Market I Opener (1)

Embedded (105939) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140552)

This should be a straight issue.

1) Offer the unit with service contract at price 1, without contract and IDE flipover connector at price 2. Advantage 1 unit to stock.

2) Offer as per 1 and a web order of unit with IDE connector and hard drive preload the harddrive with Linux (I suggest Corel may give them the best deal) pre-install their service and add a secure web page to their site to get your credit card for the service. Nothing in this stops you from installing any service, any distribution or Windoze.

3) Offer both units of 2 through distribution. Still allowing for a Web order for non-standard configurations. The advantage to this is you say it's a complete Linux machine with loading of Corel Office 2000 or Star Office.

I suggest this offers the best advantage to the company, brings up the penetration and the volume to drive down prices.

And best of all makes them a real LINUX company to fuel a IPO or pop their stock.

Baking an I-Opener (1)

Foxxz (106642) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140553)

Get a few of these babies and run a beowulf cluster. If they re-enable the hack, and open up more, we will start seeing instructions on the net like

Ingrediants:
1 i-opener
1 isa bus cable
2 network cards
install linux, let sit overnight and youve got a nice proxy (or dial-up modem sharing!)

mmm just like mom used to make!

-Foxxz

Light a fire under their asses (1)

Rootman (110962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140555)

May someone could light a fire under their asses and get the backordered units for CC to ship. I originally bought the unit to give to my mother stock and let HER buy the service. Given the change in TOS I now think that even that isn't possible - IF I ever even get one. If I DO at this point I would be VERY reluctant to give it to my Mom, I'd be to afraid that the company would go under and leave her high and dry without ANY service at all.

Ironically, I sent at least 2 (maybe 3) emails to netpliance MONTHS ago practically begging that they make a broadband appliance without ANY service availiable. Only ONCE did they responded saying that they didn't have any plans for one. Tough for them, they might not be loosing as much and look like such fools if they had made one availiable.

expect this conversation.. (1)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140556)

[iOpener execs]- So how can we keep these linux hackers interested in buying our product, but also enforce the purhcasing of the service contract?

[You]- uhhh....

Have a good trip anyway!


Seth

Re:What would I say? (1)

gaudior (113467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140557)

Isn't the whole point of this discussion to have something to 'futz' around with? I mean, if somebody already has it configured to do what you want, you don't have to 'hack' it, do you?

Congratulations... (1)

gaudior (113467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140558)

YOU have just been trolled...

How about this. (1)

Steepe (114037) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140560)

Disregarding the illegal actions of the company of charging peoples credit card without telling them, or after telling them they will not be charged, for services they did not sign up for.


Perhaps they should come up with 2 pricing schemes, one with internet service for 2 years or whatever at $22/mo, charged to the credit card, and the machine for $99, and another pricing point for the unit alone, hackable, with no service. I think the people around here have been suggesting $300 or so, I'd pay that much for a hackable one, with an ethernet port so I can connect it to my cable modem. In a heartbeat.


I really think they should refund with interest the money charged to people who were told they would not be charged, someone is going to hit them with fraud.

Bring it down under! (1)

SiKO (115956) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140562)

Hey, we want em down here in .au too!!

Second source (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140564)

these look very cool [attro.co.uk]

shame about the price
the 12" LCD version (800x600) is 1458 pounds
and thats with no HD, floppy, memory or processor
the 14" version is 1683 pounds (1024x768)

I have a similar product based on the hs-4000 board (486 dx 100 and 640x480 but touch screen) and I use it as a net browser in my bedroom. I got it second hand for 175 quid which was a bargain.

I can't really recommed a touch screen though - very unergonomic
.oO0Oo.

Re:My advice to Netpliance (1)

Sinner Falcatas (126460) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140569)

Just another idea that came to me from this post: Cable-Modem ISP can use this a a way to provide internet-through cable with an i-Opener that cames with an ethernet card instead of a V.90 modem. So, high speed, no need for a computer, just a small device that fits in your kitchen. Mmmm... How does it sound?

form factor is key (1)

urock (132261) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140572)

As we have seen in other areas, Palm Pilots are still most popular even when other PDAs have "better" features.... it's BECAUSE the form of the device fits its use... and BECAUSE its flexible (lots of uses) then it's popular. If the Iopener is a neat form factor x-term device with 800x600, sound and ethernet... I could see many of them around my house to serve the many uses of the internet (and networking). Form factor is the key to success.

I'm disappointed (1)

luckykaa (134517) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140575)

You didn't knock any marks off for the "'freeware' phenomenon that Linus Torvaldes started" comment.

Or is that covered by Troll and Flamebait?

Re:Netpliance's Cost for I-openers (1)

luckykaa (134517) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140576)

Really!? In that case they should add a decent graphics card and a marginally faster processor and sell for $300, and port the pizza key software to Linux.

Re:Possibilities abound! (1)

luckykaa (134517) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140577)

GPS, MP3 player and/or digital dashboard

The size of the screen seems to be overkill for this sort of application. I wonder how succesful an ultra compressed PC with pretty much the same spec, but a tiny display, no modem or screen and a few rows of LCD text displays for the screen would cost

Hows that? (1)

luckykaa (134517) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140578)

Probably loss making. Thats the problem. Nobody wants to see them lose money unless they act in an evil way.

Besides, if too many people started to sign up for just 3 months, they would have to increase the minimum service time. This would put off the people who might want to use this the way it was intended, and we're relying on these people to subsidise us.

Re:Circuit City and Netpliance (1)

luckykaa (134517) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140579)

I wonder how much these things actually cost. And does the inclusion of QNX add to the price?

If they sold it without the OS (who needs it anyway) at break even then they'd get a whole load of free publicity. Since the cost of parts will go down in the near future, they would soon be making a profit.

Re:Why bother with first Post! Default level is no (1)

roche (135922) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140581)

Hes a idiot man. What makes you think he can rationalize it? Ignoring them is the only thing to do

possibilities (1)

rkhalloran (136467) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140582)

push a model for $300 and no ISP contract for use as an NC in schools, kiosks, etc. Compact, cheap, field-replaceable; should move

Free Advertising (1)

preferred_nick (136626) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140583)


I bought one of those machines a few weeks back. It's been sitting in my office, waiting for me to get the time to make cables.

One of owners of my company asked what it was. I explained the whole thing (hack and intended design). A couple hours later I walked by his office to find him surfing the IOpener site. I reminded him that the hack was supposedly closed, said he didn't care about that. He wanted one buy one for his Grandfather. Word of mouth is a great method of advertising.

Open Source = Open pricing (1)

Walob (169905) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140597)

If there so interested in what we think what don't they tell us how much it it costing them to produce this I-o, and then slap a reasonable margin for them to make a profit, and then provide a forum for improvements which they could market to existing users.

Netpliance's Cost for I-openers (1)

daitengu (172781) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140600)

I beleive Netpliance's cost is somewhere in the 170-180 dollar range.... considering the first i-openers came out at $199 ... and Netpliance was supposedly making money off of them.... (this according to Circuit City Management)
DaiTengu
--------
Damage Inc. BBS

Re:How about this. (1)

daitengu (172781) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140601)

what would you need an ethernet port for? it's got a USB port .. just hook up the Netgear USB -> ethernet accessory .. it's only like $50 ... when I'm sure an ethernet port would cost somewhere in the lines of another $75-$100 to install


DaiTengu
--------
Damage Inc. BBS

the flip side (1)

cscade (173485) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140602)

i-opener, as a corporation has done the only thing that they can to save their profit margin. for the time being. i think that there are many options available to them, most of which have already been outlined above. however, here's some of my thoughts; i-opener is obviously taking a cost loss by selling these units for $100. they are certainly planning on making their money on the service. we all know that. therefore, just about the only way that they can resume selling the i-opener as what it once was, they are going to have to raise the price. the most important fact to realize here though is that they could once again screw themselves over by setting the price too high and losing sales. what needs to happen is they need to come up with a sale price that just slightly exceeds their cost per unit. although profits would be low on an each unit scale, they would still make more money in the long run, because so many more people would buy their product. they could even add the hard drive, cable, keyboard and mouse to a "accessories" line, and make even more money off us lazy people. just my two cents!

Now it's their turn to rewrite the business plan (1)

Raffzahn (173489) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140603)

Well, if they chatch the chance, the iOpener may realy be the C64 of the 00s. They may sell Billions of simple minimal PCthingys.

Hike the price and give 'em up (1)

Jeremiah Blatz (173527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140604)

I'm kicking myself for not getting one wefore they were closed up. I'd pay lots more than $100 for one of the original versions.

Really, I don't at all mind assing my own hard drive and ethernet adapter, but I suspect an i-opener that came with such things would sell well, too. A touch screen would also be a nice addition.

Re:Change your business model. Now. (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140610)

Ya know...

Isn't IPC (name in the BIOS) AST's Parent company? You know netpliance probably has to be sure that the suppliers don't undercut them.

Also, I bet that in business dealings, Technical Solutions Corp (TSC... the name in the comments of the bash scripts) is going to be very hostile twoards open source, as they loose a client to the free software community.

Just remember that as you begin to tell them what to do.. there are some forces that we are up against.

What price would them them earn a profit? (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140611)

mattdm: It's very cool that Netpliance wants to work with us, and if I had extra money, I might buy a $600 device just to affirm that. But
realistically, how many of you would really buy one of these at a price allowing them to make a profit?

I wouldn't spend $600 for a small screen, anemic processor, puny RAM. On the other hand, I might spend $400 for a portable LCD with a peppy little processor and adequate RAM for the things it would be used for;)

Prolly not more than that given what even $500 will get these days, either new (cheapie brands grasping for low-end straws) or used (somebody's formerly state-of-the-normal system from 3 yrs ago, now with "only" 64 MB of RAM and 4GB hard drive).

But *under* 400 (even 399) and w/o required ISP? Well, they didn't sell fast at 399, but they may just have been ahead of their time. Home networking is more known / advanced / accepted / buzzing, the i-opener is known as a cool product to play with ... maybe now is their time.

Please sell me a modifiable unit for $400 (2)

Kip (659) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140612)

This is what I want Netpliance to know. I'm willing to buy an I-Opener that I can modify at a reasonable price.

Netpliance has an opportunity here to beat the rest of the market by months. No one else that I'm aware of is ready to sell anything like this until Christmas 2000. If they would just figure out how to make a little money by selling us modifiable units, everyone would be happy and Netpliance would seal their market position.

Re:What is a "troll"? (2)

slim (1652) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140613)

Trolling is the practice of posting material designed to incite a negative response -- stirring up trouble just for the sake of it.

I'm not sure your post *was* a troll... but 'I am in the middle of a detailed investigation into the "freeware" phenomenon that Linus Torvaldes started with his Linux operating system' belies a fair amount of ignorance... -- you'll need a little more insight into the history of Freeware pre-Linux before showing anyone your "detailed report".

I shouldn't accept the average /. poster's opinion as being representative of the Open Source community as a whole, by the way -- most of them spend more time posting than coding.

Remember also that the community is not homogenous: some of the "socialist zealots" you speak of will in fact be proud to be anti-commercial, and will have jobs which reflect this. Others may be extremely commercially minded, and will be motivated by the benefits they see Commerce can gain from Open Source methodologies.

By the way -- do you see how you have cost me? By asking a question and posting anonymously you've forced me to reply with an off-topic posting. If I get moderated down and lose karma, it's your fault...


--

Suggestions for Netpliance (2)

SpiceWare (3438) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140617)

  • Leave the unit as is except for one thing, add the 2nd USB port that the unit is already set up for. No need to add additional things like PCMCIA; afterall, the iMac has already proven that just USB is sufficient. This would also provide an incentive to better the USB support in Linux.

  • Sell the unit at current price for people who will use their IP service, probably with a 1 year minimum service required.

  • Sell it at the higher price for people who wish to hack it.

  • Offer a ready-made hacker kit(the modified IDE cable, HD bracket, and lasagna fan) for some additional profit.

  • Have a non-hacker referral bonus. Ie: get your grandparents and other relatives online using the i-opener and get a discount on your hackable i-opener.

Open the possibilities! (2)

korpiq (8532) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140620)


[nothing new here, really?]

1. Build a light secondary image (say, separate iopener.net) for the hackers and accept them as clients as well. Either sell a secondary set - open with specs for extending [some of] both software and software - with a higher price, or other kind of bundled goodies that fit the needs of this client group. Collect and publish the hacks and use what you want for your future products.

2. sell them here in Finland, too :)

Better customer service, hardware-only price (2)

dschuetz (10924) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140625)

I have several comments:

Customer Service: I understand that Netpliance "got their model beat" by this hack, but I still feel a good deal of animosity against the company for the way that they handled the entire situation. So, specifically, I'd suggest that they react in a careful, planned, methodical fashion to future issues -- rather than the panicked, haphazard, harsh way that they did. Also, I'd definitely invest in improving customer service in general -- long waits on the phone, non-response to email, customer service computers crashing, etc., don't endear geeks like me to a company, so how will Grandma deal with problems? If Netpliance wants to be the Amazon of internet access, they'd better get Amazon-level service.

Hardware costs: Okay, so maybe it's worth more than $99. But you'll never sell it to grandma for $400 (at least not if they've got grandchildren like me who'll advise them to buy a real computer). I'd agree with another poster who suggested a multi-tier structure for purchasing: free for 3-year contract, $50 or $100 for 2-year, $200 for 1-year, $350-$400 for no contract. Honestly, if Netpliance had told me, upfront, after the story broke on April 11, that they'd require a contract, but I could buy it outright with no contract for $300, I'd still have bought it with no hesitation. You simply can't buy this kind of system, anywhere else, now (at least not easily and pre-assembled).

Hardware Improvements: It's looking like I'm going to spend an additional $300 on the box just to add a hard drive, ethernet, and a pair of serial ports (via usb). This is not to mention hardware-level hacks, like a drive LED, external audio ports, and a quiet fan. I'd suggest providing a "broadband" version that includes ethernet instead of a modem (or perhaps have the modem be a module, replaceable by an ethernet module, like on some network switches). I'd also suggest building in audio plugs (line in/out, headphones, microphone) for general use. Serial ports are important to me (IR control of Winamp and a Palm cradle), so adding those makes sense, too. Several people have suggested redesigning the heat sink so the heat flows upwards and out (the current design tends to trap heat) -- an efficient heat sink is always preferable to a noisy fan, but there may not be much you can do. Perhaps use the Transmeta chip instead of Intel clones, for power and heat benefits. Also, maybe consider a larger-screen version (would cost considerably more, unfortunately...)

Software Changes: I really like the idea of the deadicted QNX software with automated updates, etc. However, I do wonder if having a local filesystem (requiring a hard drive) might be good -- I think of the example of Grandma, receiving pictures of her newest grandchild, not wanting to have to download that from the server every time she looks at it. Better to have that local. But you don't want to go too far towards a full-featured computer (unless you wanna support, say, java-office or something), simply because that's not the point of the box (from Netpliance's point of view--some of us may go closer to that, but not all the way).

All in all, I'm impressed with the hardware as it is, but think that ethernet is a real requirement, especially as people upgrade to broadband services. A better, bigger screen would be welcome, but may not be cost effective. Offering a no-contract option at 300-400 dollars would be great for people who want to push the envelope with local, "thinner" computing. And, finally, Customer Service is of paramount importance -- companies live or die on how well they treat their customers, and, face it, Netpliance has not treated anyone -- hackers or grandmothers -- well this past month.

I honestly did not expect Netpliance to last the year, based on the service and bumbling responses we've seen. But attempts like this to get ideas from the internet community gives me new hope. We all need a company like Netpliance, and I wish you the best. Keep your minds open and your hardware/software accessible, and I can promise you the internet community will contribute ideas and fixes back to you.

Thanks for listening!

Offtopic - MSN deal (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140630)

The $400 MSN rebate "hack" was, IMO, not "ethical" because the deal was presented as quid pro quo

Did you read the terms of the offer? The offer said that you got a $400 rebate, IF you agreed to a long-term contract, UNLESS you lived in California. Taking the money and canceling the contract abided by the letter and spirit of the law and the offer.

Appliances should not be restrictive. (2)

rdmiller3 (29465) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140634)

I would like them to make the I-Opener more like an appliance:
  • Toasters don't come with monthly subscriptions.
  • Telephones can use whatever company you select.
  • Televisions and radios can view any channel you can receive.
  • Blenders, food processors, and even coffee makers can be used in ways which the designers never imagined.

The more versatile an appliance, the better. That's why washing machines have different cycles and dryers have "delicate" mode. That's why ovens have bake and broil elements. That's why microwave ovens and VCRs are programmable. That's why I can choose a different long distance company for my phone.

Let the customer choose how they want to use it. Sure, give them a rebate or something if they want to sign up with your service but don't take away their option to just buy the hardware and use it as they wish.

Besides, no one has any reason to believe that the i-Opener subscription service would be any good. How 'bout browser upgrades and plug-ins? Seems kind of limiting to me.

I-Opener isn't the only game in town (2)

Octos (68453) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140641)

Why not leave I-opener alone and support a company that is making a versitile web-pad with built in wireless networking that runs Linux. Check out Qubit [qubit.net] . Their device should be out this summer and cost around $400.00. It also runs BeIA.

Re:How about this. (2)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140642)

when I'm sure an ethernet port would cost somewhere in the lines of another
$75-$100 to install

Sorry, wrong. A tulip-based ethernet port would add at most $20, and more likely $10, to the BOM (bill of material, the cost of the parts in the unit). Labor costs are nil, since the pick-and-place system that stuffs the rest of the parts would handle the ethernet.

Re:Change your business model. Now. (2)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140649)

Market two versions of your product: one is your QNX-based model for folks who want easy 'net access. Second version is an "hackable" model. Make it a bit more expensive, perhaps, but let the hackers be hackers and sell them the machine!. Then let them hack all they want and incorporate the best changes in the next generation.

I agree. This model should be X based. As someone mentioned before, the market for a cheap, cool-looking remote X terminal is virtually untapped, and I think NetPliance could make a going at this. I'd buy one at its retail price, as long as it was an open system I could configure the way I want it.

Netpliance should work with the linux community... (2)

Krezel (91860) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140650)

Netplianc should work with the Linux community to come to a positive outcome that will be benificial for both parties. Maybe they could license the iOpener to a company like Penguin Computing, maybe even at a higher price to make up for the lost ISP revenue. Or maybe open up the ISP to Linux customers. Computers such as the iOpener will become an excellent foundation for Linux-based low-priced terminals

Netpliance, arrange a meeting with mattdm! (2)

MattMann (102516) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140651)

Stock market capitalizations are not the only things inflated by the internet boom: windy opinions, too, have soared! That article this whole thread is based on is soooooo looooong and it adds so little new. And Netpliance wants to meet with him?

mattdm (the slashdotter I'm responding to) hits the nail on the head when he points out it's the fact that it was so darn cheap, that's all. All the other verbiage in this discussion simply keeps redescribing the network computer, a la Larry Elison. Larry spent too much time describing it all on his own: do we need to rehash it more?

Netpliance used an LCD screen -- that's hot technology that's what made the cheap seem extra cheap -- in a small form factor box. There was nothing "linux" about the hack. On that original hack site, they demoed Windows running also. Netpliance used industry standard architecture... so what? who wouldn't?

thanks for the sobriety, mattdm.

Expand your market at no cost! (2)

eldurbarn (111734) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140652)

My interest in the IOpener, as it was marketed, went to zero when I realized I couldn't get their service in Canada.

A fully functional Linux box, however, would work with any of my local ISPs.

Even at a higher cost, the "hacked" hardware would find a market in places (countries) where they had not been willing (or able) to provide the net service. Too many folks "up north" are net.disabled, often due to hardware cost. A low-cost, highly capable machine (i.e. the IOpener running Linux) would really help ease that.

KNOCK, KNOCK! It's opportunity!

Price is the issue... (2)

#include (130485) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140655)

Hell, I'd pay $300 for a cheap-ass X term...I think that it'd be worth the money. Just the flatscreen monitor would be pretty fly...it's worth the money to me. But their ISP stuff? Forget it. I already pay about $50/month for my cable modem, why the hell should I pay $25 for freaking dialup?

Re:We are looking for a cheap HTML terminal... (2)

Anomalous Canard (137695) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140657)

Why a hard drive? All you need is a kernel in flash with USB ethernet drivers (2.3.99pre) and the Linux Terminal Server Project [ltsp.org] server. Mount your filesystems
from the server.

Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected

For the love of.... (2)

DeICQLady (150809) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140659)

Oh for the love of an escape key !! I'm sure there must be some place we can put an escape key on that keyboard!!

I do think Netpliance will have something going for them if they will listen to their consumers on a whole and act on it within reasonable means. Especially if they were to market this with college kids.... not necessarily with Linux or BSD but it would make life a litte easier (mind you I'd probably grow sick of seeing them...) Do some programming by the river baby!! =)

[Then I'd need a car adapter thingy and a *small* wireless keyboard....hmmmmm]
Nuff Respec'

DeICQLady
7D3 CPE

New Business Model (2)

GeoNerd (166345) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140660)

It seems like a better reaction to the situation of people hacking their boxes would have been to simply charge more for them (so they maybe made a little money) if you didn't buy the service contract, versus outright banning of hacking, etc.

After all - this would be just like the 'free cell phone' business model: not buying the service contract means you pay $300 for the phone. I think there are a lot of people that would pay $400-$500 for an iOpener.

I would like to buy (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140661)

an i-opener with

1. No ISP requirement
2. No modem
3. 100-mbit ethernet instead of the modem
4. 1024x768x32bit display
5. Modifiable (ie, has an IDE port)
6. Sells for a fair market price, so I'm not screwing i-opener over.

Make that box, send it to Circuit City at $300 / unit, and you'll be selling them by the thousands

suggestions (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140662)

replacing their current screen with a touchscreen would make this a super remote terminal for kiosks, in-store information queries and so forth. That would make a simple flat box that could be mounted anywhere, liked by cable to a server. Think of an airport lounge lined with rows of chairs with these mounted on arms. People could check on their flights, browse the Internet, read a good book, all from a box that would be small, one-piece and easily encased in vandal-proof housing.

Of course the other direction is a hard-drived enabled, hack-able PC version priced at a reasonable level.

My Wishlist... (3)

Genom (3868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140665)

Okay - let's assume that Netpliance decides to stop all of it's EXTREMELY poor treatment of customers (ie: changing terms of sale AFTER the sale, charging customers WITHOUT their consent, bait-and-switch the gooped/maimed version for the ungooped/unmaimed version people THOUGFHT they were buying, etc...)

There are a few changes that should make an iOpener fairly attractive to the linux/geek/hacker community...

PRICE - One of the BIG reasons the iOpener became popular in the first place was the dirt-cheap price. Obviously they were being sold at a loss. For a modifiable unit with no service being sold, expect the price to rise a bit - it'd still be REALLY nice to get a barebones unit for $199 or so, as long as there aren't any service contracts, etc...

ETHERNET - Most geeks/hackers already have an ISP. More commonly, they're paying for broadband access - Cable or (in some lucky areas) DSL. Most already have a computer. We're not going to want to pay ANOTHER ISP bill for slow dialup access. Swap out the modem for an ethernet port, so we can hook them up to the cable/dsl connection we already have.

IDE - Let's face it, this was the enabler for the hacks. If you want to target people who WOULD HAVE bought the machine to hack it, include a STANDARD IDE interface. Not pinswapped, not clipped -- standard. A HDD mounting bracket would be nice, but isn't really necessary if it'd add to the price.

NO OS - Since in the process of setting the machine up, we're going to get rid of the OS anyway (to replace it with Be, Linux, 'doze, or whatever), why make us pay for it in the first place? Save those licensing fees for those who can't install their own OS.

FLASH MEMORY - Okay, this is a bit of a point of contention, I'm sure - but my view is, use cheaper, non-flash memory, and assume that a HDD will be added for storage. Save a bit of money, and lower the cost a little.

TOUCH SCREEN - This would be REALLY cool, but is probably too expensive to implement while keeping the price down.

IrDA - Again, REALLY cool, but probably too expensive to implement at the price point we'd want.

PCMCIA - Since the iOpeners are so small, it'd make sense for them to have a PCMCIA port or two, if only for upgradability/expandability. Not sure how much one or two slots would add to the price, but it'd be a nice addition.

SPEED - Ramp up the processor speed a bit. I'm not saying to run the thing at 600mhz -- just make the thing a little snappier.

If they can do most of that for $199, I know I'd buy at least 2.

Separate kb & mouse ports, not a splitter. (3)

Thag (8436) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140667)

For the keyboard and mouse, use separate PS2-style sockets, and if necessary put the splitter on the keyboard/mouse.

I wouldn't use the iOpener with the keyboard/gamepad it comes with. Make it easy to swap these parts out.

I agree, ethernet is better than a modem.

Good luck, Netpliance!

Jon

Re:Let's be honest (3)

arivanov (12034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140670)

You are right about the hack.

You are wrong about the price. Even at 700 it will still sell, though in small numbers.

The current price tag on a standalone LCD is between approx 900 (Viewsonic) and 1167$ (IBM). Add the thinnest mainboard possible and you get a price tag higher than the price of a cheap laptop.

Already said it, but... (3)

griffjon (14945) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140672)

I actually live in Austin and contacted them about this, here's essentially what I said:

"You're stumbled blindly into an undiscovered market with no competitors--the market for low-cost, low-profile low-end graphical terminals for home networks. Thousands of geeks are buying old PIIs and expensive, large monitors for their home networks but would really like slicker, more integrated boxen like your i-opener. You'll have to modify the pricing and hardware, do a bit of swapping out, but you can still provide a low-cost solution with a low profile for this market and make money head over foot..."

Re:Change your business model. Now. (3)

redhog (15207) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140673)

If such a "hacker-version" is to be produced, it would be apreciable if that version had:

a) A non-twisted IDE-contact (Easy to fix)

b) An ethernet interface

The last one would certainly be an incitament for people to by that version, not the current one, if they where to use it with Linux.
--The knowledge that you are an idiot, is what distinguishes you from one.

My advice to Netpliance (3)

dutky (20510) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140676)

My advice to Netpliance is to consider several alternative products based on the iopener hardware but tailored to the Linux/hacker community (and priced at profit making levels):

  1. an enhanced iopener with an ethernet port, unscrambled IDE header, and built-in splitter for the keyboard/mouse. Price this at an modest profit and market two versions for a) home users with DSL or cable modems, and b) Linux hackers who want a nice small network workstation.
  2. a screenless iopener with two ethernet ports and a modem, running a Linux or *BSD firewall configuration, targeted at SOHO users. The market for home security appliances is just starting to open up and Netpliance should get in at the starting bell.
  3. another screenless iopener with one ethernet port, a much faster processor, more memory, and a couple of large harddrives, marketed as an application/file server for the enhanced iopener on a SOHO network.

Each device shuld be essentially the same hardware as the current iopener with only minor variations in the manufacturing details. The devices each cover distinctly different segments within a single market (SOHO users and Linux/*BSD hackers) and could easly be sold at competitive and profitable prices.

The fact that Netpliance was able to offer the iopener at all indicates that it is only a matter of time before someone is offering these products to consumers. There is no good reason that Netpliance should be that someone.

Ideas for NetPliance (3)

jasiu (33881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140679)

1) Deliver the already-promised goods. The original plan said nothing of an ISP contract, or a mysterious 6-8 week Circuit City delay. Some people in my area have postulated that the delay is part of an attempt to get people to call NP about their orders, at which time the new-"upgraded"-model-and-terms-of-service are fed to them. Others think it's merely to give NP time to get all the new gooped-and-maimed IOpeners built and shipped. Either way, NP's not making any friends out there. Give 'em the info straight, guv'nor!

2) If NP *must* pander to the stockholders, then so be it, but have the honor to deal fairly with the people that bought IOs with the understanding that they can be noodled, without an ISP contract. I'd guess NetPliance will easily recoup their losses on all the media coverage and brand-awareness this...erm...situation will give them. What they need to do is turn the situation around, make it positive PR.

3) On that note, opening the IO (no pun intended) is a good idea, as are the new pricing options for no-ISP and extra-hackable gadgetry, but it is not enough. The fair treatment of all customers is a big thing with the Geek Community (witness our love of MS business practices), and the perceived shafting of the Mar 16-20th customers will be a burr in NPs saddle until resolved.

4) The new mods. The Engineer's Motto is: if you can build it, you can deconstruct it. Just as the software industry found with copy protection, any safeguard can be circumvented. How many customers is NP losing while they retool their production lines to goop-n-maim the IOs? Signing an ISP contract at purchase would probably be quite sufficient to legally enforce continued cash inflow (IANAL). What does NP care if their customers tool their IO to run BeOS, so long as NP gets their $$? It's even better if the hackers *don't* dial-in: they don't use NP's ISP bandwidth and phone lines, but NP collects the cash anyway. The only way I could see NP not liking this idea (in my admittedly limited vision) is that they're hoping that ppl will be too lazy/forgetful to cancel if they truly don't want the service.

Just a few thoughts.

i-Opener possibilities (3)

erlando (88533) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140682)

The possibilities are endless..! The key IMHO is to keep it cheap. The price has to be less than an ordinary PC obviously. An i-Opener with integrated Ethernet- and IDE-interfaces would be nice. And a sound card is a must. Let it be an option whether it's shipped with or without HD. Make it hackable and let people take it from there. Like the good old C=64. Hackable like h*ll. And people love(d) it.

Re:Circuit City and Netpliance (3)

Carnage4Life (106069) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140683)

3: sell the i-opener at $199 to those who don't sign up for service
that way they will make some money off their products,


This is the idea I originally had until I remembered that even at $199 the I-opener is a loss leader. The netpliance originally cost $300 as can be seen at the bottom of this article [iminorities.com] and in this article [epinions.com] it states they upped the price to $300 after using $199 as an intro price. The current price of $99 is a promotion and is not a price the company will be able to maintain for the long term.

Secondly 1 year of service costs $250 ($21.50 * 12) which is about a $100 of profit per year. A more suitable and realistic plan would probably be
  1. 1. sell the I-opener at $149 to those who sign up for at least 2 years of service. (Total customer expenditure - $649)
  1. 2. sell the I-opener at $259 to those who sign up for 1 year of service. (Total customer expenditure - $549)
  1. 3. sell the I-opener at $450 to those who sign up for at least 2 years of service. (Total customer expenditure - $450)
PS: We all know that being a loss leader never works out, after all look at what happened to CDNow [zdnet.com] .

Re:Let's be honest [Something from Nothing] (3)

rjamestaylor (117847) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140684)

The popularity of the hack centers around one figure: the low price.

My gut tells me this is right on target. All the exciting hacks are in the principle of creation: something from (almost) nothing. Or, something completely different than intended.

In this case, there is a feeling of mischeviousness. Almost a kind of "ha ha, so there" against an obvious attempt to build in a dependency which didn't naturally exist (i.e., Netpliance ISP was the only way to use the system).

It's this kind of resourcefulness that encouraged my company to begin using Linux a few years ago: older machines (486 and slower Pentiums) that were in no shape to run NT Server, or Win9x as desktops, could serve as excellent Linux servers for different tasks. The feeling was, "Hey! Let's beat the system." Instead of paying the WinTel monopoly regular tithes (worse, actually) according to a GM-like obsolesence plan (why do you think MSFT started naming OS versions by year? It's like a 1999 Ford Mustang, by now it should feel old--don't you want a 2001 model?).

I'm all in favor of (ethical) hacks. The $400 MSN rebate "hack" was, IMO, not "ethical" because the deal was presented as quid pro quo, but the I-Opener deal was not originally presented as such; the ISP was an option. Only in retrospect did Netpliance add terms to the deal to enforce their "business model".

Slashdot reported on another interesting hack in February: the netBSD port to the Workpad z50 [slashdot.org] . I bought one of these beauties (it really is) and have been following the NetBSD and LinuxCE mailing lists as to progress being made. This was an ethical hack: take a discontinued but interesting machine and make it better. WinCE is pretty awful (but usable for text editing, I found) and the ability to add my native enviroment to this little treasure is too nifty! I never would have paid $1000 for the unit. Not when a real laptop is not much more. But, I did buy at under $400. And, by looking on eBay daily, it seems a lot of people are still buying these things (although the price is going up).

What I'd like (3)

yamla (136560) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140685)

Sell the hardware either with a mandatory service plan (at a loss) or sans service plan for one lump sum payment. Expect to make most of the money selling to newbies so you can keep the price low (while still making a profit) on pure hardware sales.

Of course, you'd definitely do well to sell mod kits so that customers do not need much technical skill to plug in a hard drive.

Consider upping the screen resolution. That would be sweet. Definitely an option worth paying money for.

Definitely allow extensive feedback (preferably in a web-based discussion board) for people running Linux et al on the hardware. It could serve as free advertising and tech support.

Basically, have the option of selling the hardware for a profit for those people who want to run Linux on them. That's all we ask for.

Re:Change your business model. Now. (3)

Anomalous Canard (137695) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140686)

the market for a cheap, cool-looking remote X terminal is virtually untapped

I think you misspelled "nonexistant" as in virtually nonexistant.

People flocked to the i-opener because it was cheap. At $99 or even $200 it's a bargain. But at a more realistic price of perhaps $600, the market dries up again. You and I both might buy one at that price (I know I want one), but there wouldn't be the huge demand that there is now.

That said, I think that Netpliance needs to get its contracts in order. If they want/need people to be obligated for some minimum term of service to cover the initial hardware cost, they need to have it specified properly in a real sign-it-and-mean-it contract with appropriate penalties for early cancellation just like a cell phone contract.

Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected

Leave it disassembled (3)

robwhit (166118) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140687)

It's been said that NetPliance should take the cost of the manufacturing of the hardware and then add a little bit and sell that as a hacker's eterm without the ISP. Well, to save more cost on that, have it completely disassembled and let the hackers/geeks assemble it themselves. Geeks and hackers should know how to put together a little computer, so that's easy money saved on NetPliance's side.

A few requests to Netpliance: (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1140688)

1. Give us a "real" price for the original system, a price that assumes it will never earn any revenue for you via a user account.

2. Consider creating and selling a "pre-hacked" system that includes a hard drive.

3. "Open" the unit (fully document it) so that external peripherals may more easily be connected and used.

4. Uh, er, add a PC-Card (PCMCIA) slot? (Mainly to make adding Ethernet easier.)

Anything more, I feel, will be "guilding the lily", taking the system far from the current design, and thus possibly losing the benefits of using the same production runs for multiple purposes.

My ideal use for a "hacked" system would be as a convenient Web browsing system to have on an end table, conveniently available to use during TV commercials.

From the basic system, here are the hacks I'd like to add:

1. Wireless networking.

My main system is in another room, connected to a cable modem. It has more horsepower and connectivity than the i-Opener, so I'd like to take advantage of it as easily as possible. While it is no problem running A/C to where I'd put the i-Opener, getting Ethernet there would be a pain.

2. InfraRed I/O.

Possibly a full IrDA port, but anything that would allow the iOpener to easily control my TV and VCR.

3. X-10 Firecracker Interface.

I've just started automating my home, one lamp and appliance at a time, and having convenient centralized control and access in the living room would be convenient.

4. Remote Keyboard with Integrated Pointer.

RF is preferred, but IR will do. I don't need the i-Ioener screen to be in front of me, but the keyboard pretty much has to. (Unless, of course, some future i-Opener were to include a touch screen or a simple pointer device integrated in to the bezel of the display.)

I could do all of this with a retired laptop (perfectly capable laptops can be had for under $500), but they lack, well, style.

While I would never buy the i-Opener service for myself, my computer-phobic father is turning 70 this summer, and I intend to give him an i-Opener to finally get him online in the easiest way possible (he already detests the idea of WebTV).

An excellent product, with the added bonus of being emminently hackable!

-BobC
(The guy who never remembers his /. nick or p/w.)

Re:I got slammed (4)

dmuth (14143) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140689)

IANAL, but since they charged you for something you never received, that sounds like a case of fraud. Why not file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission [ftc.gov] and see what happens? I think most businesses will tend to fear the government more than other businesses. :-)

Re:What would I say? (4)

spiney (28277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140690)

It's really simple actually. Give us a way to pay a fair price for a modifiable unit, with no bundled Internet service, and we'll buy the thing.

We are looking for a cheap HTML terminal... (4)

Sinner Falcatas (126460) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140691)

... and i-Opener has plenty of possibilities!

Yes, at work, we are moving from character-based apps. to HTML-based apps. This way, we could use an i-Opener derivative as our platform.

We are talking on 500 to 1,500 units here. Serious bussiness.

The requiremets would be an i-Opener with those add-ons:

-Ethernet Card (10/100)

-Bootable Hard Disk Drive (1Gb its OK)

-A way to install any desired OS (Linux/Win-dos would be primary choices) and a browser (Mozilla?)

-Key mapping instructions to links their "unique" keys to our applications (help, mail, web, home...)

-Mouse port

-A range of CPUs to choose from (w/ or w/o MMx, 3D instructions, 200 to ??? MHz

-Nice price ;)

I guess all this is pretty easy to bundle to any i-Opener. I mean, Netpliance can easily substitute the modem for a ethernet card, attach a 2.5" HDD to the IDE port and provide a Y-cordline for a regular KB+Mouse... ot their KB (without the pizza key, please!).

BTW, we are based at good-old Barcelona-Europe (yes, that's why my english looks wierd sometimes ;) and some of our providers can act as importers or European Partners or whatsoever.

How many corporations wouldn't go for a cheap "i-O-Client"? Not only for HTML but any C/S application will work great with it. You have all the Hospitals, Small bussiness, ... just anyone with a need for a small front-end for their server applications.

I will appreciate if someone can convince Netpliance that they're in the path of a big-bucks bussiness. We are willing to buy some!

Thank you in advance,
Sinner Falcatas

(remove NOSPAM to email me)

How Netpliance can (and CAN'T) make money. (4)

IO ERROR (128968) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140692)

Take a clue from the cellular phone industry. The loss-leader hardware with service contract doesn't make you much money unless you actually manage to keep your customers around for a long time, and you can actually WAIT for that money to come in.

Get real.

First, only requiring three months of service is asking for trouble. After paying the $65 for three months of service, whether I use it or not, I can take the hardware and run. Netpliance gets $165, I own the hardware free and clear. Now some people have estimated the cost of this box at around $300. I'm not very good at math, but I think that means Netpliance loses $135.

Second, ISP service costs money, even at wholesale. If you get it for $5, and resell it at $22, that's $17 revenue. To make up the $201 difference between $99 loss-leader price and $300 cost, your customer has to stick around at least 12 months. That's right, a whole year. (I had to get out the calculator for that.) The service contract only requires three months.

So what should Netpliance do?

Netpliance should figure out a reasonable markup to the actual manufacturing cost of the i-opener and then sell it at that price in a completely hackable version. Maybe even include one of those laptop IDE cables and a hard drive mount inside the case, so it's all ready to go.

Netpliance should then sell the same i-opener for $99, with a service contract that requires at least as much service as will generate the required amount of revenue to bring in a similar amount of money. Maybe a little more, since it's spread out over time. A 12-18 month contract seems appropriate.

Netpliance should then sit back, relax and let us hackers get to what we do best: hacking. Watch the ideas we come up with and our prototypes and maybe even buy some of the ideas, or even hire some of the hackers, for future products.
---

Circuit City and Netpliance (4)

daitengu (172781) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140693)

I, being a current employee of Circuit City recieved an E-mail from my company last week.. we currently have 28 Iopeners on Special order, from back in the day when they were hackable. The e-mail stated to me that it will be ANOTHER 6-8 weeks before we will see any more I-openers.

I know that at least 25 of these 28 machines were to have hard drives hooked up to them, I don't know if Netpliance already has the money from circuit city, or if cc is just holding on to it ... all I know is Netpliance is going to see all their income DROP like a brick through glass when these I-openers do come back into stock.

In my opinion Netpliance should have done the following:

1: sell the I-opener at $99 to those who sign up for at least 2 years of service.

2: sell the i-opener for $149 to those who sign up for 1 year of service

3: sell the i-opener at $199 to those who don't sign up for service

that way they will make some money off their products, instead of knowing that they will have to dig themselves out of a BIG BLACK HOLE in the coming 6 months ... put everything back to the way it should be ... heck .. I'd pay $199 for one, it's still better than the old Packard Bell we have sitting on our shelves for $450 ...!
DaiTengu
--------
Damage Inc. BBS

Let's be honest (5)

mattdm (1931) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140694)

The popularity of the hack centers around one figure: the low price. Sure, it'd still be a cool hack even if the thing cost $500 -- but it would have only attracted passing geek interest, if that. The exciting thing was, with a little bit of knowledge and skill, you could get something for obviously a lot less than its worth.

It's very cool that Netpliance wants to work with us, and if I had extra money, I might buy a $600 device just to affirm that. But realistically, how many of you would really buy one of these at a price allowing them to make a profit?

--

Possibilities abound! (5)

mmmbeer (9963) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140695)

As someone who has had an I-Opener on order since the last slashdot article, I am dissapointed that Netpliance has taken up such a hostile attitude towards the hackers who are essentially developing other Netpliance product lines. I've been watching an I-Opener message board [kenseglerdesigns.com] and there are people doing marvelous things with hackable (and some non-hackable) I-Os. A popular use is to mount the device in a car and use it as a GPS, MP3 player and/or digital dashboard. The "hackers" (term used loosely, no flame por favor) are going out of their way by a long-shot to modify these devices for general use, sometimes costing hundreds of Altarian dollars.

I believe that if Netpliance offered a slightly more expensive general-use I-Opener they would be astounded at the uses the community will come up with, and the ingenuity of the geeks they're trying so hard to thwart may become a key ally in the company's longevity

Would that be a C-to-B business model?

CapnBry

Re:Open the possibilities! (5)

arivanov (12034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140696)

I will immediately by the set as a cheap X term for my home if:

1. It has the rumored non-loss-leader price (around 300$).

2. It has no stupid ISP contracts. Yeah right, what the fsck will this ISP offer me here across the pond.

3. It is extensible and has full specs and no M$ fee hanging on it.

4. And if they sell it in Europe of course.

The market is very hungry for decent cheap thin clients. At the same time the cheapest offerings for now are above 1000 which just makes you go and buy a laptop or a PC.

So why don't these people get a clue and start selling a separate hacker/thin-client pack.

Because thin clients have their place more in home than in the office. I do not want to hear any fscking fan and hard disk noise in my room. There is an equipment rack for that purpose...

Set up a wireless NC edition (5)

hey! (33014) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140698)

What I want in an NC is to have the least clutter. I'd like to be able to just plug it in to power and be networked. I don't care about huge network or CPU performance.

I'd like to see these things adaptible as NCs with wireless networking (perhaps by having a PC card slot) and a small amount of persistent storage, enough to boot a stripped down Linux or BSD.

Here are some applications I'd see for such a setup.

Trade shows information kiosks.

Interactive supermarket and mall directories.

Low end word processing and Internet access workstations.

Interactive museum displays.

Cybercafe terminals.

Warehouse and point of sale application terminals.

I'd like to put one or more of these in every store and restaurant in my nice little suburb's main street, and have a town commerce network with information on stores, sales going on, amenities and services.

Change your business model. Now. (5)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140700)

A couple of quick things:

1. The cat is out of the bag. Forget about putting it back in. This being said, the confluence of Netpliance hardware and Open source opens up many possibilities:

2. Market two versions of your product: one is your QNX-based model for folks who want easy 'net access. Second version is an "hackable" model. Make it a bit more expensive, perhaps, but let the hackers be hackers and sell them the machine!. Then let them hack all they want and incorporate the best changes in the next generation.

3. Target other markets: schools, colleges and universities could use cheap machines with standardized, open-source OS installed. Target large corporations, who need a computer on every desk, and sell them these machines. With Linux or one of the BSDs, you can overturn the Microsoft monopoly.

4. Penguins are your best friends.... Daemons may be a little bit more controversial, but they are also cute. =)

Welcome to Open Source!

Open Source? (5)

b_pretender (105284) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140701)

Do you think that this is open source? I'm interested in your opinions. Here's something that I just sent out...

Dear Netpliance,

I think it is great that you are embracing the open source community by
announcing the Developers Corner. I am glad to see the Developer 100
Pilot Program announced, but I feel that it doesn't support an "open
development" process that you describe.

The open source community works at solving problems by working together,
collaborating with each other. People can pitch in and work on part of a
project that interests them and/or is their area of expertise. People
work together on projects, not because they are given incentive to do so
(i.e. free I-openers), but because their project interests them.

The two main problems with the 100 Pilot Program is that...

1. It provides the wrong incentive for people to contribute to the open
source movement. I've already talked to many friends who say that they
will apply to the program just to receive a free I-opener. You can't
expect many contributions from someone who are in it just for a free
I-opener.

Instead you need to target the people who are actually interested in
developing things. One way to do this would be to devote resources to
webpages or discussion forums about specific areas of development. By
doing so, Netpliance would also be able to focus the development that
was going on. Hosting these webservices would probably be cheaper then
giving away 100 I-openers, and the developers would do the work of
creating the sites/BBS's/whatever as they were needed.

A good example of a company devoting resources to an open-source
development is Netscape. Go to http://mozilla.org/ and see what they
have done to rewrite the Netscape source code. Netscape 6.0 is a product
of the Mozilla project; we will have to see for ourselves if it is a
good thing or not. (B.T.W. Netscape 6.0 is much smaller then it's past
versions. I smell an embeddable web browser!)

2. By limiting the number to 100 people and then making it difficult for
others to work with their I-openers, you are severly hindering an open
development process. There are already close to 100 websites on the
internet about modifying the I-opener and the number of people working
with these units is much greater.

I'm sure that you've already recieved over 100 emails from people asking
to recieve an I-opener to turn it into something or other. Once these
are given out this will prevent developers with potentially good ideas
from being able to work on thier ideas.

As I have already said, a better solution would be to host discussion
forums and support the development from the inside. This would better
for Netpliance economically, allow Netpliance to dynamically control
development, and probably give Netpliance a better relationship with
it's open source developers.

Thank You,
Ben

Remember the KISS rule, people (5)

Tassach (137772) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140702)

Keep It Simple, Stupid: the first law of engineering.

Reading the comments people have posted, a common theme is "Just add [foo] to it". I think this is the wrong approach -- if you want [foo], add it yourself; if the specs are open, someone should be able to figure it out. The most attractive feature of the i-opener is it's price -- start adding more hardware, and you are going to drive the price way up. IMHO, a reasonable price for a hackable i-opener, as-is (or as-was, before March 20th) is around $300-$350. Any significant changes to the design will involve significant re-tooling charges at the factory.

Now, if these folks are smart, they'll make an i-opener 2, which would have 10baseT ethernet, more expansion options, and a slightly bigger case , maybe with an (empty) 2.5 or 3.5 drive bay. They don't really have to add any new components -- just give us the headers to attach our own, we'll do the rest. They can then take the best ideas and sell them as after-market add-ons, to get some additional revinue out of the beasties. They can also make money by selling an i-opener linux distro, optimized to work on their hardware.

An expandable i-opener, with ethernet & documented expansion headers, could go for as much as $500, and maybe a little more. Price is a serious issue with this -- overprice it and it will fail; find a good price point and it will become a standard, filling the gap between a full-blown PC and a palmtop. There is definatly a market to be tapped here, guys -- don't blow your chances to dominate a new, untapped market by being stupid and/or geedy.

(And, btw, reexamine your distribution model -- using only Circuit City is going to hurt you in the long run. Either use the Dell/Gateway model and only sell direct to the consumer, or put the things everywhere.
"The axiom 'An honest man has nothing to fear from the police'

TOS badness (5)

yubyub (173486) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140703)

The only beef I have with them is what they've done with their TOS. Changing the contract _after_ the units have been sold is a bad mistake, IMHO. If they needed to change their agreements, then it should be done professionally, honoring their previous sales. It's bad business to do otherwise.

I got slammed (5)

bananax (173500) | more than 14 years ago | (#1140704)

I hope NetPliance has everything together now. (sob story ahead-> I bought an IOpener on March 12, was billed for $99 plus shipping on March 12, and never plugged it in.

They added a $19.11 charge to my credit card 2 weeks later, and I went through a truly awful phone call with them whereupon they asserted they could charge me for things based on their company policy.

(they changed their TOS well after I bought the machine).

Discover gave me a temporary credit and are currently "investigating" the situation. I imagine it will go like this: "NetPliance, why did you charge our customer for something he did not order?", "Discover, it is our company policy to do so." "NetPliance, please hand over your merchant account."

So, for me, tell NetPliance the basics of how money works. Remind them, for their own good, that they need some sort of agreement from the customer before executing a transaction. Yea, remind them that they cannot charge me money just because someone at NetPliance assumed they could. etc.

I fear them.

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