What happens when the open source model is applied to hardware? You get Arduino. If you're not familiar with the Arduino platform you ought to read this excellent article about it in the latest issue of Wired magazine.
This model has the potential to turn the hardware industry on its ear. The phrase "creative destruction" was used in the article and I think it's an excellent way to describe how the open source approach has affected software, now hardware and even content. Yes, that's right...I couldn't help think about the content world while reading that Wired article last night. Simply replace "hardware manufacturers" with "content providers" in this relevant excerpt and you'll see what I mean:
To thrive in this next wave, hardware manufacturers will have to switch their thinking. Their job is no longer just to dream up ideas -- it's equally important, maybe even more vital, to seek out innovations from users.
P.S. -- On a related note, O'Reilly just published a 128-page book called Getting Started with Arduino. It sounds like an excellent book for my son, the aerospace engineering student and all-around tinkerer. I'll have to look into employee discounts since this is my first day on the job!