At the very least, Dimitri, the project leader for the Kickstarter project is handling PR very poorly by running around the internet arguing with trolls!
I originally pledged to donate to the smARtDUINO project, and I still hope they survive long-term to provide modular solutions for my hacking addiction. However, once they reached their funding goal and my priorities led me further away from a near-term use for another Arduino-like platform, I removed my support. I found Dimitri to be very likable and very open in his communication, but since English is very clearly not his first language, his wording is often quite unclear. However, it also didn’t sit well with me that while his company is in Italy and he started a Kickstarter project using his property in the US, he actually lives in China in his work supporting his Italian electronics company.
I mentioned in my earlier post that there was a possibility of conflict with the original Arduino team, and this exploded over the last couple of days. Mossimo at Arduino.cc posted on his blog that the smARtDUINO team had never manufactured Arduinos as their Kickstarter strongly implied, they simply hired two people who used to work at a subcontractor that did work for the Arduino team. This was was picked up by Hackaday and Make magazine where the hobby hacker community exploded with all sorts of opinions!
I find it kind of sad because it honestly looks like miscommunication combined with unwise, arrogant PR. Dimitri is jumping from site to site insisting that his wording is accurate, and given his mediocre English (fine for a foreigner, but not very clear) it looks likely that he honestly doesn’t recognize that his wording strongly implied that this project is closely related to the Arduino team. He also posted a picture of a product that was labled “Arduino” an even clearer violation of Arduino’s Trademark.
The lesson here is that one should hire a PR consultant from your primary market before trying to market a product. That, and you should never publicly attack customers or competitors — if they rally against you, you’re probably doing something wrong.
Mossimo at Arduino has clarified that he has no interest in suing which I find very refreshing!
smARtDUINO isn’t going to challenge Arduino, especially if the manufacturer alienates their customer base! I also hope they survive in the long term to continue to manufacture modular Arduino-like components. Most Arduino boards just draw more power than I can afford using cheaper components or components I don’t need, and while I’m happy to learn PCB design as necessary, I’d much rather use ready-made components to keep my workload as low as possible!
[EDIT] I should add that after re-reading some of Dimitri’s comments, it does look like Mossimo made some inaccurate statements. While Dimitri may have led readers to believe he lived in Italy (I certainly thought so at first) he explicitly mentioned a couple of times that he lived in China. I followed everything he wrote on the Kickstarter until the last day or so, and I remember being surprised by this, but it is technically inaccurate that he “claimed” to live in Italy. Also, Mossimo’s invocation of unsourced “dubious” activity on Italian forums is just inflammatory.
I am a huge fan of Arduino and I see a place for similar modular technology. I do think smARtDUINO intentionally uses the Arduino name inappropriately (even in the title of their Kickstarter!) — not because they’ve said anything inaccurate, but because they are using another company’s trademark to profit themselves and in the process, diluting the value of the trademark. That’s the whole point of trademarks, after all, and in most of Dimitri’s posts, it seems that he is missing that important central issue and is instead focusing on whether or not his statements (or others’) are factually accurate.