Dear Rigol, Owon, etc…

Posted by on January 3, 2013

This letter is meant to be read by the pertinent executives or anyone in charge of the software/firmware department of the aforementioned companies (Rigol, Owon)…

It is time you take the market by surprise. Open your software. Create the world’s first real production open-source oscilloscope. Let people enhance your work and let yourselves learn from their revisions.

Of course this doesn’t mean you’ll quit developing the main firmware, it only means other people will be able to optimize, enhance and modify the firmware to their liking.

There have been reversals going on and several “hacks” on certain firmware versions, but the need is there. Open it up!

You’re selling the hardware, unlike the primary high-end oscilloscope companies who enjoy selling software and will charge you for every extra feature you want on a scope you’ve already paid full price on. This is the reason why the firmware on your scopes has to be open-sourced as soon as possible, to gain an extra edge on the entry-level market.

The reason Rigol sales sky-rocketed has simply been due to software leaks. Owon and others have not been explored deep enough as of today, so their sales were not increased. This proves the point that software is what drives your sales, not just the quality of your hardware. People want to modify the firmware, add features and remove other features they don’t want/use… Focus on delivering top-notch hardware with an initial firmware and let the clients develop it further on their own or at least allow them to fork and develop their own versions.

While it’s true that due to market segmentation you’ll share the same hardware on at least 3 different models (separated by bandwidth and other features, locked by software) — By having an open-source scope, you’ll only need to deal with one version targeted to everyone, at a fair price. The segmented model is outdated and the only reason you’ve been using it is because Tektronix, Lecroy and others still use it.

Sure, on some instances it works, but Rigol, Owon, etc. are dealing mostly with entry level equipment and thus, money is an object to your clients — Hobbyists and students alike.

For example, due to the firmware “hacks” on the Rigol Ds1052e, more 50MHz units were sold than 100MHz versions will ever be sold, proving segmentation becomes pointless when software is compromised and still, doesn’t hurt sales — to the contrary, it multiplies them.

I cannot stress enough how important this is for both parties. If you are unsure, just release the sources for your flagship model and see how it goes, you’ll be surprised by the feedback and rapid increase in sales.

Be smart: adapt, be the first company to do it and you won’t regret it. There’s no reason why scopes can’t or shouldn’t be open-sourced like some cell-phones and other platforms have been…

Hopefully we’ll see eye to eye on this one.

Best of luck,
Gus