I have a new idea for a hardware product. Unfortunately, I only have experience with software and would only be able to develop the software side of the product. I have no idea where I would start. Obviously, I wouldn't want to develop this product myself, so I would need to find some company that makes hardware.
Would I tell my idea to same large hardware manufacturer in hopes of getting paid for licensing my idea? (What prevents them from stealing the idea and developing it themselves?)
Would I find a small hardware product that can develop a prototype, get that working and then go to a large hardware manufacturer with my idea? (I'm thinking the prototype shows that the software portion is already finished, and so rather than them stealing the idea and developing it themselves, which could take time, they would want to buy a working version from me.)
Would I partner with a small hardware company and begin developing these small scale (e.g. sell them through my website), and only if I start getting a lot of orders think about either getting investors or selling the idea to a large hardware manufacturer?
Regardless of the method, I would need to find a company that can make this hardware. This is perhaps my biggest problem since I don't know what search terms or resources I could use to find such a company.
I would recommend the first thing you do is to prototype this up and work through some of the implementation detail/user interface things. You can do this either by educating yourself on hardware development, or by partnering with someone who know's how to develop hardware. You're more likely to get taken seriously in a licensing discussion if you have a working prototoype.
I'd have to say that when deciding between developing a hardware prototype and getting a patent, I think it would be better to develop a prototype.
Would you consider licensing it to some established manufacturer? If you have a patent it'll be easier and you won't have to worry about a lot of aspects of the entire process from manufacturing, to shipping, to distribution.