Possibility of modified Pandoras

February 4, 2009

While we have been open with the parts used, and where possible used hardware with open drivers, we will never reveal the schematics or we would just have cheap Chinese Pandora clones showing up which most certainly isn’t part of the plan.

We are however happy to sell the bare boards or even do modifications for bulk customers.

Craigix has posted some interesting information on the forum about releasing the schematics for the Pandora, he is adamant about the schematics not being released, in order to avoid cheap knockoffs, but he finishes off by mentioning that bare Pandora circuit boards could be sold (possibly at a reduced price?) and that modifications can be done for customers buying Pandoras in bulk.

Could we see future versions of the Pandora, modified for more RAM, NAND memory or even revisions with key lighting being sold by other shops? While this may cause serious problems within the development community, like certain games having higher requirements than the specification Pandora, it could definitely open up new opportunities for the console. Only time will tell.




  1. > Could we see future versions of the
    > Pandora, modified for more RAM

    I think one of the main reasons not to have cheap knockoffs is to not split the community. And one of the main causes of such a split is a change in main hardware components.

    What happens if some Pandora2 with more CPU power or RAM releases too soon? (Game) programmers will use it and Pandora1-users wont be able to use this new programs/Games, impossible because you cannot upgrade such things.

    So while additional things like a 3G-connectivity or a ethernet port, more NAND or any other things you can upgrade the original Pandora with ease are welcome. A change in CPU, GPU or RAM is not.

    Just my 2¢

  2. I was gonna ask about the possibility of upgrading the Pandora’s memory etc. It would be cool to maybe add more memory over time or even a faster chip.
    Another cool idea would be if we could buy a totally new board to fit in the old shell instead of having to resign one to the back of a draw and have to buy a whole new one. Will probably never happen but it would be cool if it was possible.

  3. Seems like I misunderstood the openpandora homepage: “to make the ultimate open source handheld device”.

    I always thought, that the idea behind Pandora is open source console with open specifications and everything.

    It was actually the biggest reason I decided to preorder and eventually not to cancel my preorder when the delays start pouring in.

    I actually felt so good and so proud, that I’m supporting open specifications project.

    Turns out, I was wrong. Sucks.

  4. It was never said in Pandora history, that the schematics would be open. MWeston spent over a year designing it. It would be stupid to give the schematics to knock-off producers.

  5. No, it would be idealistic and awesome. I think it’s quite unlikely that anybody will copy the design. I think they should reconsider their decision. Making the schematics public doesn’t mean allowing people to use them to make devices with them. You could probably prevent that using copyright and patents. If illegitimate copies are made, they still don’t really have the potential to endanger the Pandora project. Maybe it makes them feel more safe to not publish schematics until they stand on firm financial feet but when they have gotten that far, they should reconsider. Open hardware is the next step and I’d like to see Open Pandora follow Openmoko and publish schematics. Maybe only publish the circuit diagrams and keep the board layout secret for a while longer.

  6. um, doesn’t what craig is saying relate to what they said last week about repurposing the hardware for other devices? They won’t make pandora mkII and alienate the community, but instead say a dedicated media player, or carpc etc?

  7. I think we can pretty much count on an attempt at a cheap knockoff in the Asian market, so there’s no point in giving them a leg up.

  8. irgendwer, I agree. I actually mentioned what you’re saying in the post.

    “While this may cause serious problems within the development community, like certain games having higher requirements than the specification Pandora”

    It would be a bad day for Pandora owners everywhere :(. But I’m not here to give my view, simply to tell you the news :D.

  9. Even if OpenPandora wanted to open up the hardware design, they’d still be limited in what they could share. For example, the OMAP3530 is a cutting edge SoC; Texas Instruments need to protect their design as well. Pandora is open in the same way a PC is open. Anyone can develop for the system without having to buy costly SDKs, or install cracked firmware.

    Also, a clarification on RAM: it will not be upgradable. It’s pretty much built in to the OMAP3530.


  10. Wired article on “Open Source Hardware”:


    Short version: Yes, open source hardware is profitable, just like open source software is. Conventional wisdom has no merit in either case.

    I’m aware that there were never any plans to release the schematics for the Pandora. However, that isn’t exactly made clear to the general public, and quite frankly the name “OpenPandora” is a bit deceptive in this regard.

  11. The RAM is on the SoC, and I think the NAND is too, not real sure, but at least the RAM would not really be replaceable. And about the schematics, I’m pretty sure TI doesn’t just sell their chips to just anyone, and especially as ‘cutting edge’ as the 3530. I doubt that some knockoff Chinese manufacturer could go about replicating much of Pandora’s hardware. That being said, I can still see how they’d want to protect it. And they are pretty open about it, if a dev/modder really wanted to know something specific I’m sure they’d tell you.

  12. It would seem that the name “OpenPandora” is a bit deceiving. Knowing that it is a piece of hardware, a name like that would leave one to believe that the hardware is open, but alas it is not.

    I’m in the same boat as ‘getting bored with this’, in regards to being under the impression that this was going to be an open hardware platform.

    I kept my hopes up throughout the banking fiasco, took a hit on the exchange rate from the refund, and decided to continue to pursue getting my hands on the OpenPandora. Simply calling it “Open” because it runs open source software and some open drivers, does not make the system open, that label goes with the software.

    I honestly appreciate all the hard work and time that has gone into to designing the OpenPandora, but I feel that this may be the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back.

  13. I feel that unless the OpenPandora team designs each and every part themselves, include the wifi, bluetooth, cpu, video chipset, and I mean everything, and writes all the device drivers, it is pretty much next to impossible to have it 100% opened. To the folks who keep saying that the binary blobs making this “non-open” and thus the reason for them for not buying this unit, please, I implore you to go ahead and put together a team, with the proper expertise, to put together a project as ambitious as what the OpenPandora is attempting, making everything completely free and opened. I am not saying it is unachievable, but please, if you are going to complain, go ahead, please go ahead and put the money where your mouth is and do better. As it now stands, I feel the team has done a commendable job of putting out what they can.

  14. The Pandora hardware is as open as we can reasonably make it. MWeston worked in as many additional contact points (I2C, serial, USB, etc) into the board as he could, and those will all be documented for hacking purposes. If you’re looking to mod something, we’ll help you out with trace locations. Posting full schematics wouldn’t do anybody besides Chinese knockoff shops any good.

    Similarly, all software and drivers that we are legally allowed to release we are releasing. Almost everything is already available for download. The only bits we’re not releasing (SGX binary, internal wifi firmware) are bits that we are NOT ALLOWED to release.

    Fully open source hardware is a nice dream, but it’s not practical if you want something with high performance. Every halfway decent graphics core available on a SoC is VERY under NDA. There are no “open” options. Taking a look at fully open source hardware platforms proves this out.

    The Freerunner and the Chumby are the only two commercially viable open source platforms available. They’re noble projects, but neither contain anything near state-of-the-art hardware. They’re also both externally funded. Very well funded in fact. Openmoko is a pet project of multi-billion-dollar electronics manufacturer FIC and Chumby Industries works off of several million in investment funding.

    Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s just a lot easier to be altruistic and give away a few hundred thousand dollars worth of hardware development when you have millions worth of somebody else’s money to play with. Openpandora doesn’t have that luxury.

  15. Not having the design files is *not* going to stop Chinese pirates from ripping off the design and manufacturing knock-offs .. this has *never* worked as a means to hinder such activities. There are a large number of ‘slice and scan’ shops in China that can just take a finished Pandora, pack it with dye, and slice it, layer by layer, scanning all the while .. this will produce a copy of the final board design within a week, so ..

    More, the lack of these files is only going to bring the light to issue and provide, possibly, some sort of legal recourse (good luck in China, Craig) if a clone market does start to appear ..

    But really, there is nothing stopping the ripoffs from happening. Just, nothing.

    So it’d be better to embrace the clones and make it less lucrative for any single individual pirate to profit from making a clone, by giving *everyone* what they need to make Open Hardware implementations of the Pandora design. If Joe Hungarian can go to his brand new chip-fab in the outskirts of Budapest and get a nice, quality clone made, the Chinese are not going to have as easy a time profiting from the effort, heh heh ..

  16. Well, the pirates would at least have to buy one first before they break it apart and scan it, right? Maybe more than one depending on whatever method they use. You’d prefer they not have to buy one at all and just download the data and start pumping them out, totally bypassing team and stealing all their hard work with some cheap, hacked together copy? I hadn’t realised the community was full of jerks. See if anything like this ever gets made again.

  17. > You’d prefer

    Not to have to ask permission to make derivative designs.

    > with some cheap, hacked together copy?

    Would you buy that? Would anyone currently interested in the Pandora buy that? I sure as hell wouldn’t. I’m still waiting to see if the real thing is going to be good enough to spend money on.

    > See if anything like this ever gets made again.

    Yeah, just like how no one makes music or movies or books or video games anymore.

  18. I’m not advocating Chinese copying; but since you can’t do anything to stop the Chinese, why not license the design to others (Europe has a burgeoning electronics industry, don’t forget) in a fashion that still lets the original team profit?

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