Offline Use

Dan has said the cloud fees are figured into the initial cost of the Glowforge.

Cloud fees are a continual cost. Purchases are one time. So figuring the fees into the cost of the initial purchase only works with a projected sales rate. As soon as sales fall below that rate, cloud fees are no longer covered.


Here’s the quote from Dan:

Yes for initial backers but I think @jacobturner is getting at something different. When the product goes retail it is unsustainable to build in the cost without continued purchasing at the projected sales rate. And I think Dan is being smart by not promising anything or predicting what it will cost because they really don’t have enough sales data to predict projected sales. I mean the pre-order has blown the initial estimates out of the water but who knows what will happen when the device is full retail. I for sure wouldn’t be buying one at full price.

That’s a nice sentiment from Dan, but it’s not realistic. Forever is a very long time to keep a service going with finite, non-replenishing resources.

Realistically, they set some length of time (likely 2-5 years), calculated the cost of the server time to support a machine over that time span and then added it to the cost of machine. The intent would then be to support the servers for the initial lot of ~3000 machines off the revenue generated from additional sales and whatever rake they get from the marketplace and additional feature fees.

Note: ALL OF THIS IS PLANNING. There are multiple reasons that this plan would not be executed and the servers would no longer be accessible. The simplest is that the plan changes, either because of new management, insufficient revenue, company gets bought out, someone wakes up and decides it’s annoying.

Yes, Dan has promised that the cloud software will be free for backers to use ‘forever’, and I take him at his word that it his intention to follow through. But there will come a time that Dan isn’t in a position to keep the promise anymore, and whoever is may or may not feel bound by Dan’s promise. And neither you nor I any other backer has any recourse to enforce it either.

The ONLY way to 100% guarantee that the software is available ‘forever’ (or at least until there are no computers and GFs left capable of running it) is for owners to be able to run it locally.

(If you want examples of similar cloud based services being shut-down and destroying products, see any of a number of examples from PC and Console gaming. In many cases a company (EA especially) has run dedicated servers for either multiplayer matches or DRM verification. Once the company decided that maintaining the servers was no longer profitable (In some cases only 2-3 years after launch, particularly when they wanted to push gamers to buy the newest installment of a sports game), the servers were shut down and the game was no longer usable.)

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Exactly - no matter the intention, reality must be satisfied. Of course, if server fees amount to $1/user/year it is possible that for all practical purposes the server will be free for pretty close to forever as defined by today’s digital marketplace where products go obsolete within 5 years. Does anyone have an idea what server fees for something like this might amount to?

There is a plan to hedge against the company going belly up or a forced subscription fee and that is that they are making the firmware open source so you can develop your own cloud and talk to it and bypass GF. While they offer it for free there will be little motivation to do so but if they treat us badly then a solution may present itself.

I think there is another factor here that no one is addressing.
It could well be that the purchase price of the units is only one small part of the total equation. We have heard that they are planning to sell designs in the catalog and pre-qualified materials. Perhaps the long term plan is for those activities to account for a significant source of revenue, and eliminate the need to charge for basic access.

I can only imagine that the Glowforge team is hard at work figuring out additional ways to make money from service offerings. Hopefully those won’t include going back on their word.

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A few quick notes on the above.
@jrnelson: I love suggestions and feedback. As soon as I hear people say “I have to have something you’re not shipping”, alarm bells go off and I advise them to buy the product they need, not the product they hope we make some day. I would rather have someone satisfied with another product than disappointed with ours.

More broadly, we’ve promised a lot. We’re going to deliver, but it’s going to take every bit of our ability to do that. If people are expecting more than we promised, I want to reset those expectations quickly.

If you want an offline laser, you should definitely buy one, not buy ours and hope that we change our strategy some day. We might, but if you’re counting on it, you’re likely to make us both sad. : )

Regarding our service: unless we note otherwise, the functionality you’re described when you buy the machine will be free-for-life. So that applies to current purchasers as well.

Regarding the notion that I might be sacked and replaced with someone who thinks differently: You are absolutely correct; that is theoretically possible. That’s why I made the open firmware guarantee. There’s no backsies on that once we ship (and nobody is firing me any time soon).


Any clue when the firmware will be released?

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It was promised to be released when the product started shipping. But, like many of the promises, it has yet to be fulfilled. (Even though this one is an actual legally binding requirement due to the fact that the majority of the firmware is based on open source licensed software, the terms of which they are openly and blatantly violating).

Its been requested, numerous times. The last official response:

That was almost 3 months ago. So, it could be sometime between now and the end of time.

I’m expecting the latter.


Thanks Scott. I truly hope they make good on their promise. I have hope!

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