While reading a recent InfoWorld column by Neil McAllister, I was reminded of another innovative use of open source software. Open source software can be developed to provide additional customization and support of hardware devices. In Democratizing Innovation by Eric von Hippel, he described user developed innovation that is shared with other community members (I highly recommend this for book for anyone interested in innovation or open source.)
In the case of consumer devices, we are typically limited to using the device only in way that the manufacturer wants it to be used; however, some very creative individual can often rewrite the firmware. This is easier if the manufacturer has provided the source code to the original firmware, but the entire firmware can also be re-written from scratch. This allows us to do things like reconfigure the user interface for an MP3 player or add additional features to your router and share these new modifications with other interested users.