Some distributions of Linux manage to work across a similarly wide range of devices, and it's from this springs this hope that an open source camera could work.
We've already seen here that it's getting easier to build cameras, because if you know where to look you can buy the parts. And these parts are not just nuts and bolts and individual components like resistors, capacitors and transistors: they're much more highly integrated than that. Which means that you don't need to buy a display screen and then write an operating system for it because you can buy the whole thing, fully working, ready for integration in your bigger design.
That doesn't mean you can do it without essential skills though.
So, you can imagine with a modular camera system that you might want to decode the data from the sensor differently, or you might even want to use a better a/d converter for the analogue signals coming off the sensor. You might want to have a 12G SDI module, or perhaps a dock for a new type of storage.
Breaking it Down
Once you start breaking it down, there are dozens of ways that you might want to put a modular camera together. What you throw away when you do this is the consistency and purity of a vertically integrated device. But what you gain, potentially, is a camera that grows and shrinks with your needs.
But it won't "just happen". An awful lot has to be in place before it does, including luck, good will, and the willingness of a sizable community to commit to a project that has no guarantees.
What's more, there's the question of how you make an Open Source hardware model work.
Hope for the Future
It certainly won't work by being free. It will have to be paid for. That's not unreasonable. But what gives this project hope and potential is that with such a modular system there are so many ways that people can take part, adding their own modules to the range, and enhancing the whole system.
And it's not just with hardware that people can contribute. It's software as well. Some of the modules are likely to use FPGAs - programmable processing chips that can be made to do any number of different things depending on the "instructions" they load at boot-up. So you won't even have to design hardware to have an input to the design of this camera.
So, now, we have to wait and see. We hope it succeeds, but that will just be the start. We'll keep a close eye on this project and we wish it luck.