Don't bet against change

May 1, 2010 OpenSystems Media

Sure, sometimes technological change doesn’t stick when it’s too far on the edge or poorly implemented. But it’s almost impossible to name a case where a newer solution got traction in an exciting way with the right audience and the previous solution survived.

In an interesting conversation I had at Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley (ESC SV) last month, a VP of marketing at a prominent firm told me that he saw industrial opportunities for embedded computing shrinking. That’s probably true for traditional process control equipment, where inexpensive hardware continues to replace proprietary stuff. But once I told him I categorized smart energy as the new face of industrial, and he thought about it for a moment, he got it. Are you betting against smart energy? I seriously doubt it.

The same is obviously true for mobile and home embedded devices; growth in those markets has been and continues to be explosive, and it’s not just among prosumers – it’s reached the mainstream. Apple became a phone company? Yes, because they took their core competence of a user experience and made it stick. iPads are everywhere now as the change builds speed. Google became a phone company? User experience, again. Android is also building momentum fast.

The same thing is happening in automotive. The whole idea of bringing an individual’s mobile device into a car and plugging that combination into the cloud for services is absolutely transforming the automotive industry. Go ahead, find your favorite stock charting site, type in the symbol “F,” and what do you see – a stock that’s doubled in a year. Coincidence? Granted, the cloud strategy isn’t the only thing going in Ford’s favor, but it is what is driving people into their showrooms. (Meanwhile, my 2007 Saturn Vue Hybrid is sitting at the dealer having its computer replaced for the third time in four years. Unexciting doesn’t begin to describe my feelings there, and unfortunately the folks behind that product are paying with their jobs. Cloud computing? GM is still trying to spell it.)

The same thing is happening in medical. I breathed the word “Continua” just to get reactions at ESC SV, and it was amazing to see that people were not only very aware of the health alliance, but also were doing something with the idea of connected devices to help people be healthier. I had a super-exciting airport conversation with Jon Adams of Freescale Semiconductor heading home from the show, and I can tell you he’s just starting to imagine the possibilities for how health monitoring improves lives and transforms health care.

The only world where the status quo pays is defense, and a really interesting transition is happening there – they are being forced to build their own processors in many cases, because no commercial vendor will keep theirs around for the life cycle defense customers think they want to see. Even that’s a change not good to bet against.

Change for the sake of change isn’t the idea. The folks that really listen to what the user wants, boldly go forward, and get it right can create a total shift. We’re now entering a new cycle of that. Just look through this issue and see how FPGAs, mobile virtualization, and security devices are solving problems in ways we hadn’t imagined a few short years ago. Then head to our website to see many more examples, or catch one of our E-casts.

Where have all the good times gone? In this industry, they’re in front of us if we choose to look forward.

Twitter: @dondingee, @embedded_mag
E-mail: ddingee@opensystemsmedia.com

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Don Dingee (Editorial Director)
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