It’s a sad day for free software as one of the most ambitious free software projects, Improv, is officially dead. Along with the board also dies the promising Vivaldi tablet.

The developers have sent out emails to the backers of the project that they are pulling plugs on these:

With much regret, we are wrapping up the Improv project.

We greatly appreciate everyone’s support, whether it was purchases, donations or words of wisdom and encouragement. There was simply not enough support to make the project work, despite having fully functional, production ready devices and a strong commitment to succeed.

The Free software community does not seem ready at this point to make a concerted stand on the pressing issue of hardware freedom (for more, see this Dot story [1]. In addition, we did not do a good enough job of communicating. We continue to believe that free and open hardware is one of the critical issues of today.

Refunds
In order to produce Improvs at the expected level of production, we purchased long-lead-time components from a Chinese supplier at a total cost of $5545. There were also some fees incurred for on-line payment processing. Other than those, no other money has been spent and will be used for partial refunds over the next few days. Aaron is considering ways to cover the remaining balance, but there is not a firm date for completing this.

The end of the Improv project also means a disappointing end to the KDE Tablet project, as Aaron was funding both projects out of his own pocket (almost exactly $200,000 spent).

Carl Symons

It’s really not that easy to bring any hardware (let alone fully open) to the market. Just look at how Microsoft, despite its deep pockets, is struggling with their Surface tablets and Windows smartphones. They ended up buying Nokia to ensure at least there will be one hardware player with notable market share to push Microsoft mobile OS.

Amazon, the Earth’s largest online store, doesn’t have very decent numbers to show how many Kindle tablets they sold till date.

Heavyweights like Dell and HP have been struggling to do what Aaron was trying to achieve. Even Canonical’s most ambitious Edge campaign failed despite so much marketing and large user-base.

The moral of the story is – hardware is not easy.

Aaron and the team are not traditional hardware players. It took Google couple of failed hardware projects (Google TV and Nexus Q) to finally learn the art. So it’s commendable what the KDE team tried to achieve.

Hardware is a tricky business and the team took upon themselves a herculean task – to bring open hardware to the market running free software. This project may have ended, but its not the end of free and open source hardware.

There are, and there will be, many Open Source hardware+software projects that will learn from the mistakes of Improv and Vivaldi.


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