Wilson, this is not such a suprising result. I was a little suprised on the hardware side, though. On the other hand, students and hobbyists are not designing to deploy large scale commercial products. In addition, since the BeagleBone is an ARM processor, it is a good platform to use for learning that CPU family.
What I find surprising about this, Naperlou, is the percentage of professional engineers who are likely to try open source. for hobbyists and students, cost would certainly be a factor in the choice. For professional engineers, the quality of the open source tools would come more into play.
Wilson, you mentioned, "Traditionally, open-source designing in the commercial space were seen as a risk." You're right, but recognize that the source of that perspective were various Corporate Marketing Strategies, in general. The perceived "risk" was a loss of potential revenue, and it was broadly viewed that any development efforts not company-controlled, translated to a weaker bottom line.
The first Open-Sourced initiative I ever experienced was the explosion of the Linux OS; which I completely mis-understood at the time. 10 years ago, I considered it sloppy, risky, and just plain 'hacked'. But time proved me wrong, and it is clear now that allowing any developer, anywhere in the world, on any payroll, from any strategic vantage point, can improve the overall good of the community.
Open Source offers a method of rapid prototyping and proof of concept. A problem for companies is how to protect the idea from competition as the low barrier to entry minimizes development effort of similar products. Another problem is that Arduino boards and shields take more 3D space than projects laid out for a specific purpose. The Beagle Bone does minimize this by packing a lot of computing power in a small space if computing power is what you need.
We could see open source in bigger projects. Fisker has tried to open source its component layout though the company is struggling. Didn't I read that Elon Musk has offered his Hyperloop Transport as an open source project? He has provided the dream and the plans and will let others contribute to building it.
Yes, JimT I, too, was a skeptic of Open Source at one time. Your Linux example is a good one. Lots of people thought Open Office couldn't work but it has actually worked better as the Libre Open Office broke off from corporate control. Many thought Wikipedia couldn't work. How can you have a credible encyclopedia when anybody is able to edit it? But it keeps getting better. Open Source is kind of like the paradigm of Stone Soup -- or maybe a bee hive.
Good mention about Wikipedia. That's a resource that I use almost daily; and it's funny I didn't even think of it when pondering past examples. Just goes to show how comfortable & familiar we get with things.
Really it's the same as commercial products; there are good ones and bad ones. The good news is that when you find a lousy open source product you can just uninstall it, and that means you usually forget all about the negative experience. There are a few open source tools that are so exceptional, I rely upon them daily, so I too am a convert.
Don't forget to donate to the open source products you depend upon. Just because you got them for free doesn't that they don't have value.
Rob, another interesting aspect of the open source hardware plarforms is that there are cheaper alternatives that represent parts that can be had for production applications. I have a number of interesting boards that I have worked with. If you are looking at ARM CORTEX-M3 or M4 then STMicro has boards that are in the $10 (for the M3) to $15 for the M4. You can get professional tools for these that are restricted to the boards in question for free. Then, if you develop something that you would want to implement and sell, you have the parts available in mass quantities. If you are looking at these types of parts, I would stick with the ARM architecture at this time. I am not pusing STMicro, but this is just a set of devices I have recently worked with.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.