Friday, July 06, 2007

It Seems Like Old Times—From PCs to Mobile Phones

Steve Jobs leads Apple to the top with the best technical & user friendly products. Bruce Willis is Dying Hard, and the stock market is rocketing upwards with the no limit in sight. Is this 2007? No, try 1987. Apple’s Macintosh computer tops the technical users’ wish list. Bruce Willis stars in the first Die Hard movie, and the upwardly mobile stock market continued to rise throughout the year until it crashed in October of 1987.

It seems like old times only this time Apple is innovating in the world of mobile phones and not PCs, by releasing a combination iPod, web-browser, and mobile phone—called the iPhone. It tops every technical user’s wish list and sets a new standard for technical ease of use and cool design. Bruce Willis is now in his fourth Die Hard movie. I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know how much it has improved on the core theme of never, ever give up. The Dow has risen to over 13,000 points but still roller coasters with every news bit on oil prices, politics, employment figures, and more.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s instructive to learn from the PC era and apply the rules to the current generation. In the PC-era, IBM developed the standard and everyone adhered to the core basics. It was hard to tell one vendor from another. The machines mostly looked alike and worked the same. It was generally difficult to use, but the PCs at that time had a few applications that drove sales – Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect word processing, and others.

Today, the mobile phone market looks strikingly similar. Most mobile phones look the same, and work the same way (e.g. text messaging). Vendors tout the differences in their solutions (better network coverage, more friendly service plans, etc.) but for the most part there’s little differentiation. The Apple iPhone combines key technologies (not necessarily Apples’ invention) into a user experience that takes it to the next level. One of the key inventions is the interface.

In the PC-era, virtual instrumentation made substantial use of the PC-platform (doubling in performance and halving in cost every 18 months) to build measurement solutions. Now that the platform of choice is the mobile phone, how could virtual instrumentation leverage this platform?

It’s been predicted since the post-millennium that “internet devices” would overtake the PC. The Palm appeared to be the “one” that would lead the charge, but in the end it turned out to be a “false pretender” in Ray Kurzweil’s nomenclature. It tried to morph into a leader with the Treo phone, but it didn’t quite make it there. The iPhone is the true leader.

Twenty years ago we called them, Personal Computers. Today we call them PCs. I guess when I write my next ‘déjà vu all over again’ post twenty years from now, I’ll call the mobile phones, MPs. Hopefully, between now and then virtual instrumentation will leverage the power of the mobile phone.

Best regards,
Hall T.


Blogger Phillip said...

Hopefully everyone will be calling virtual instruments 'VIs' by then too :)

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