Improv Open ARM Board Failure Leads To A Ton Of In-Fighting

Written by Michael Larabel in Arm on 24 May 2014 at 02:46 PM EDT. 18 Comments
Earlier this month I wrote about it looking like the Mer-powered Improv ARM board will not ship and now it's even more clear about the libre hardware project's dire situation with just open fights going on between the project and its former hardware supplier.

Back on Monday was a new arm-netbook mailing list thread that got started off by an individual looking to work on marketing for the Improv project, etc. Additionally, it was asked whether Improv could use an EOMA-68 design for manufacturing if they were able to fulfill their orders. (As mentioned in the earlier Phoronix article, all mentions of the "EOMA" design had to be removed from their web-site and their manufacturer cut ties Improv.)

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton, the CTO of Rhombus Tech, among other titles, responded from his perspective on the Improv's situation and under no circumstance does it look like they would be willing to work with Improv again. It basically comes down to the Improv only having orders for about ~250 of these low-cost, Linux-friendly ARM boards where they needed at least 2,500 units to run a production order while Improv was reportedly keeping quiet on their numbers.
well the problem is that they didn't keep us informed of numbers, as they came in. we therefore lost face with our large client (the factory in china) because we had to give them excuses instead of an order that was promised.

four months in, after asking many many times we find that they had 10% of expected orders, which they could have informed us of within the first 4 weeks not after 4 months.

after apologising deeply to our embarrassed factory, whom we had gone to extraordinary lengths to arrange an order of only 2500 units (they normally deal with minimum 10 to 50k runs, their machines have a capacity of 20 million units a week so this is a huge favour they were doing us), we found an alternative factory, on very short notice, who could do 500 units of the PCBs.

... three weeks later, complete silence..

my business partner has therefore permanently crossed them off of our client list - he was very pissed. i don't have control over what decisions he makes.

Aaron Seigo immediately replied saying that it wasn't accurate but didn't want to shed additional information publicly. Luke countered, "if you had advised us immediately that you only had 200 to 250 units after one month when we requested after one month that you inform us of numbers, we would have had time to do something. but you did not respond to my associate's request. he had to ask several times. each time you did not respond. eventually after several months we received a response. by then it was too late."

When talk began about salvaging the work, Luke responded, "we need money, it's quite simple. i can then send the design off to a prototyping house, get one made up and tested, and we can carry on. so this is why i am in holland earning money. until i have money, the project is shelved. find the money, the project is not shelved." Aaron added, "money and time. the first run at the tablet was projected to take a number of months from where everything was at the time and ended up taking a year and still not having all hardware design complete. unless something has changed in the meantime, i'd expect to face similar time constraints with another go-around ... even if the official answer given is 'oh, no time at all!' (been there..)"

Things didn't end there though with more fighting back and forth, namely between Luke and Aaron. As summarized yesterday by a contributor:
The way I see it. Everybody already got scorched.
1. Aaron, your idea for a opensource KDE tablet failed twice now.
2. Luke, he put a lot of energy, into this project.
3. Luke's associate, whom ever that may be, for taking the challenge
4. The factory, QiMod?, for not getting the order they thought they get
5. The community here, "arm-netbooks", due to weeks/moths of silence and then being presented with failure and a blame-game/flamewar

The matter was also clarified further that Improv will never be a customer of EOMA or QiMod, according to these statements. "aaron, i'm not sure if you fully understand. you've been blacklisted by my associate. that is an irreversable decision. around 2 months ago he gave you notice to remove *all* mention of EOMA from *all* web sites under your will *never* be a customer of *any* EOMA or QiMod products, *ever*, and you will *never* be granted a license to make EOMA-compatible products."

It was also brought up about the Plasma Tablet that was talked about in prior years (Spark / Vivaldi), to which Aaron said, "This entire project is on hold indefinitely. That has been noted on the MPL forums as well; we haven't been keeping that secret. The tablet project stretched out much longer than it should have and exhausted my resources in the process, which is what was driving that project."

There's many more comments from Luke, Aaron, and other individuals if you're interested in reading more this weekend... But long story short, don't look for any Improv ARM board or Vivaldi tablet anytime soon -- if ever.
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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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