Some companies seem to make it almost impossible for you to design with, and to many low-volume, high-mark-up manufacturers I am sure that this observation will seem familiar.
Some years ago, working for a medium sized COTS manufacturer I was fortunate enough to work closely with cutting edge networking hardware and software. Although we were a relatively small fish, we were given good access to the essential resources to ensure a solid and reliable end-product. As expected, NDAs were the back-bone of this relationship, and the NDAs were simply a door-opener to get to the data I needed.
At this time, whilst annoying to have to jump through hoops, it did make you feel privileged to get access to another companies IP and core technologies. The hardware I was working on was pretty cutting edge, and the silicon was definitely new enough that the red-tape seemed a necessary evil.
Cut to the present day, and I once again am trying to get the same level of access to the same data. This time, I am just trying to get the bare amount of information so that I am able to make use of this proven technology. Now over five years later, this technology is no longer cutting edge, but for some reason the protection has not evolved! I am still having to jump through hoops, but the end-result is not even half as appealing as it was five years ago.
What is going on here?
This does not just apply to one example/company, but I am trying to understand why they feel the need to protect their legacy. Have they not moved on since this technology? Do they consider their technology so key to their business that they fear they may lose market share if "anyone" can see their internal block diagrams? Amazingly, this was not the oldest technology protected in this way, they also had 12+ year old technology protected in this way!
I'm not calling for all defences to be dropped - there are a lot of shark silicon manufacturers out there. Even a pinout may be enough for them to create a drop-in replacement IC at a fraction of the price. However, it has to be said that beyond reasonable care, the only logical conclusion I can draw is paranoia.
Paranoia seems an unlikely conclusion given that these companies are often market leader in their field, but I find it difficult to reach any other logical conclusions. However, this level of protection has to be counter productive...
The open-source software model (i.e. GPL), or the reference platform model adopted by many IC manufactures is perhaps the exact opposite of this kind of defensive behaviour. This disfranchisement of right at first sight appears overly generous, but think about it...what is the first thing that you cannot do when there is an open-platform available? Suddenly all hopes of competitors trying to patent your technology, or attempt to block your market disappear - it is like the ultimate stand-down.
Whilst open-source may be hoping for too much with the market incumbents, and in fact may be a step too far for some, going some way down this path for legacy technology will massively open up the market place for the small fish to use this technology with barrier. This has to be a good thing for the global market place, and will release the burdon of support from the incumbants so that they can find their next cash-cow to milk.