We have seen it so many times in the software business. A lagging product goes open source, and suddenly what was old looks new again.
Can it work for hardware?
Intel thinks so. (Yes, that sentence was fun to write.)
Yes, Intel. Intel's release of 3-D Linux graphics software, with an open source license, is all about catching rivals ATI (recently bought by AMD) and nVidia in a niche where it's lagging. The software will support its new 965 Express chipset. The result will be graphics supercomputers using open source, probably within a year.
Many readers laughed at this trend as databases and applications became open source projects and got .org sites. I remember writing that these moves were proof those products could not compete. But now, with lower costs and community support, many of them do compete.
Intel has seen this and placed heavy bets on the open source process. In hardware.
Best of all, this move will be of enormous benefit to Linux generally. It dovetails well with efforts by RedHat and Novell to add more "bling" to the operating system. This, in turn, will increase the competitiveness of open source graphics applications, creating still more value.
I personally think it brings Intel, in some ways, back to its roots. Open source does to software what Moore's Law does to hardware. It drives down prices and drives up value.
It's all a virtuous cycle. And for proprietary vendors, it's a vicious circle. The circle remains in spin.