Get off my bike, Alphonse

August 1, 2010 OpenSystems Media

When we look at a situation only thinking about what’s gone on in the past, we don’t see the entire picture.

I was watching the final individual time trial stage of this year’s Tour de France as I prepared to write this, and happened to sit down when Lance Armstrong was mid-course. Coverage was fixed on Lance’s time to the first checkpoint, and he was falling way off the pace and even wobbling with his pedal strokes, something I don’t ever remember seeing before.

At that point, race commentator Paul Sherwen remarked “Perhaps [Lance] no longer has the desire to win this race.” Funny he should mention that, because during the next commercial break the Lance Nike “Engine” ad played, and then I realized just how badly that comment missed what’s going on now.

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Figure 1: 2D: Nike Lance “Engine,” http://bit.ly/aMUU7c

We’re falling into this same trap in our view of the embedded computing industry. If we look out the rearview mirror and not the windshield, we miss seeing a much bigger race.

Take Lance for instance. He’s put a huge amount of energy into starting a cycling team and is still encouraging younger riders. He’s definitely inspired millions of people with his courage and unbelievable perseverance. Now, he’s creating his future. It’s fun to celebrate accomplishments and dream of greatness, like Alphonse enjoys doing when Lance is away on business, but it’s time to move on and create new stories.

When I hear something like “smartphones and tablets will never take over for PCs,” I’m hearing folks who need to look out the windshield. PCs will continue as prosumer workstations for graphics arts, code development, EDA, gaming, and similar heavy lifting. But walk into your nearest Apple Store and watch people use the iPads for an hour. Consumers like mom posting pics and teens creating social content and kids doing lots of other things are headed for or already on smartphones and tablets. It’s just starting. We haven’t imagined all the tools that will show up, and it’s already affecting embedded computing.

We have examples of more changes in embedded computing in our content this month. Motorola is shedding its base station infrastructure team to Nokia Siemens Networks for $1.2 billion. Why do that in a rapidly growing market? The answer comes from DesignArt Networks: The base station market has changed, and new Systems-on-Chip (SoCs) are enabling the new game of compact base stations, where new leaders will emerge. (And Motorola gets to focus on Droids, their best move right now.)

Another example is our interview with the GM of Dell’s OEM Solutions unit, a much bigger name in embedded computing than you might realize. You’ll also see ideas from Microchip, Altia, Wind River, AMD, and many companies in our Resource Guide pointing at changes under way in our industry. Our virtual panel discussion on the smart grid is also different and enlightening, with representation from APS, EPRI, GridWise Alliance, Lockheed Martin, and others.

Don’t be like Alphonse and just pretend. By all means, have fun on the bike. Then get off, figure out the changes, and go make something happen. Let me know what you’re seeing.

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Figure 2: 2D: Radio Shack Alphonse on bike, http://bit.ly/dxe1fK

Don Dingee (Editorial Director)
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