While I'm waiting for my noob restrictions to be lifted, here's an idea I find intriguing to discuss - would a properly configured FPGA miner machine "worth" it?
As far as the Idea goes - I have similar thoughts. I'm EE/software engineer, did Altera development on both hardware and VHDL side and Bitcoin design would be for FUN and PROFIT as well. If I can build a business case out of this, I will develop a special computer for Bitcoin mining. These can be much more efficient in terms of energy and have other advantages (security).I'm looking for partners/investors,
if I find those I can switch to this full time, ( my current software development job& - low level C, video processing/H264 - is similar in spirit to SHA256 calculations), focus on high-performance Bitcoin systems, that will also have potential use for similar types of number crunching applications. If not - will see if GPU mining brings money as expected and then switch to FPGA development.
Evidence on this BB is that it is way more energy efficient. Development cost is rather high, but if you manufacture your own boards, the cost may be much better. If things go really big - custom FPGA to ASICS conversion route will reduce per-system cost an order of magnitude, as well as power consumption.