I worked on a project like this. . . sort of. . . (Score:4, Interesting)
Totally different industry, and we didn't follow through because we were teen-agers with half-assed ideas but, the research turned up some amazing knowledge which cleared the way to many awesome skills for navigating the world. We went on and did something completely different, but we used a lot of what we learned during this first process.
--One of the first places we visited was a spring manufacturer. We told the plant manager what we were trying to do. Turns out it would have cost a hundred bucks or so to get a machine cranking out little springs to our specifications, and after that you bought the springs by weight; pennies per pound. --Same with all the other parts. We discovered that you can make pretty much whatever you want out of metal and plastic; any shape imaginable and. . , well, this is basic engineering/business 101 and I imagine not terribly surprising to anybody who reads this, but it was a real education for a couple of teenagers at the time.
The world opened up! We realized, "Hey, we can make any darned thing we want. Industry is set up precisely to make this possible. It's just a matter of coming up with a good design and then making some phone calls and working out a sales route, assembling the thing, packaging and shipping. Heck, if you can get advanced orders from enough retail chains you can pretty much know before you start how much money you need and what your profit margins will be, and with that information you can put a plan together for a bank and get a loan to start cranking products out. If you plan carefully, it's like printing money! Ah. . . So THIS is where millionaires come from. Dang! This isn't hard at all. It just takes smarts and effort. Wow! We can do ANYTHING!"
Or something like that. It feels good to know that goods don't just magically appear on shop shelves, but that you can put them there yourself; you can shape the world. You barely even need seed capital before the business loan, unless you need to hire engineers and programmers and such for the prototype, and even that can be worked into a more advanced business plan to take to a bank. You can start the whole thing with bus fare and a clean shirt and slacks!
One bank manager took an interest and gave me a half-hour lecture and several pieces of really awesome advice which I still use today. One of which was that banks don't care much for small loans, but that thinking REALLY big is more likely to procure a willing investment. (I don't know if that is still true today in the current economic climate, but back then it was apparently so). And second, I met a couple of professionals, (one of whom was a lawyer who did a few hundred dollars worth of paper work for me for free), who lived by that rule from the movie, "Pay it Forward" --but a decade and a half before that movie was even a twinkle in some script-writer's eye. "I'm going to do this for you for free, but one day when you are successful, a young, bright-eyed kid is going to come to you for help. You must promise to help that kid the way I'm helping you now. Will you do this?"
My god, yes! I almost hugged the man. --And that came from a lawyer, no less. Dang! People can be SO awesome.
So I think this tablet project is totally boss. If nobody is making what you want and you want it enough, then darn straight, go make one yourself! Chances are there are a bunch of somebodies out there also trying to wish the thing into existence, and that's your market right there. So why not do it? --It will fill your life with a purpose you created within yourself, it will give you a fascinating obstacle course of scalable challenges to work through and that sort of thing brings real joy. And at the end of it, if your aims are right and you put in the work and you don't allow yourself to fall into wishful thinking, then you'll succeed and have made the world a better place in the process. So these guys completely rock, and Open Source is definitely a cool way to go! I can see their business plan evolving thusly. . .
Produce working prototype, put a price tag on the thing in terms of cost per 100 units or whatever, and start taking order promises. You tell people that their promise will not be called in unless a certain target is met, so nobody is going to get hit with a huge price tag, so the risk there is zero, and the major plus is that for every order above the threshold, the cheaper it gets for everybody to have one. --And with the project working like that, you don't have to worry about giving a retailer and distributor a 60 - 70% discount, so you're miles ahead of the normal business world. So when you hit the numbers you want, you jump in and hit the 'On' button, and Voila! Everybody has a rocking tablet. Open Source in the physical world. And it's not even an unproven model; it's totally doable! Co-op mountaineering gear and bikes and camping supplies have been produced using a similar method, so yes, it definitely works. --And this way you get the best gear to specs which have nothing to do with trying to satisfy the lowest common denominator and the ego of some ignorant and over-paid executives.
With the right intent, a project like this one could absolutely change the world!