@faddat it’s an exciting and enticing idea, but I don’t understand why you think this would be better than these off the shelf units. I think it could be great for marketing SAFEnetwork, but I’m not seeing how a custom SoC would attract backers based on what you’ve described.
You say more performance. OK, maybe. I’d like to understand what that means - it would have to be worth the extra cost (double or quadruple the price), risk, delay, etc, when we don’t yet know the value of this next to other factors.
It’s quite likely that added memory would be more valuable than CPU, and doesn’t require custom hardware to boost it. However you add memory though, I think that would be hard to deliver without large volumes (> 1,000), and even then likely to be marginal, not multiples. (I say this with rather outdated knowledge, but real experience nevertheless! There is I think very little margin in memory, so not much ability to gain discounts.)
Things like PiZero, CHIP, Pine64 get their pricing from high volumes, and they do that by being general purpose and having wide appeal. I think it’s feasible we could go this route at some point, but for now I think the main value would be for marketing rather than creating a cheaper or higher performance solution. I’m not sure we can make a case for it on price & performance with sufficient volume.
The problem then, would be finding a way of generating the volumes for a project few people have heard of, and funding the initial 1,000 run as you recognised. I’d like to think this community could fund that, but I think we’d have to bring people in who haven’t even heard of this yet to get that amount of volume, and there’s a lot of work from getting the hardware made, testing, marketing, promotion, media handling, sales, order processing, admin, customer support - someone will need to do that.
So for me, your proposal is first a challenge to the marketeers here. What could we create, of genuine value, and how do we market it (probably) as a crowdfunded project?
I know MaidSafe had some early discussions with a volume manufacturer along these lines over a year ago. So it would be interesting to understand the strategy considered then, and maybe learn from what was being discussed and what happened.
It seems to me we should first come up with the marketing based on off-the-shelf parts, and if we think it would work (or boost the marketing, which a successful crowdfunding campaign can do), we then look at a custom approach. So again I’m minded to look at the marketing first. For example…
We could achieve an awful lot by providing an array of pre-configured SD cards for as many SoC platforms as possible. Marketed to all those hobbyists with different SoC units already out there, or looking for a reason to buy one. Partner with retailers when we demonstrate some volume, or our ability to help them reach new customers.
If that’s successful, we partner with one or two of the Pi/CHIP/Pine64 like projects to do all the back-end tasks for a cut, while we go out and market the Super SAFE Compact Farming Rig range (a standard SoC that you plug in, runs the setup wizard, and then just works).
If that works, then we could consider a custom solution, but I think it would need to deliver real benefits over the off-the-shelf options. Maybe this where a solar setup comes in - integrating the solar controller within the SoC for example.