I believe technology can be exploited to greater levels than we have allowed. We are constrained by 20th century business models and ideas. Collectively, we need to move past technology for the sake of technology and truly focus on moving markets beyond the status quo!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Folklore and Software…Pure Inspiration
I first encountered Trolltech about four years ago and have been intrigued since. After you get over the odd name and being reminded of Peer Gynt and the Three Billy Goats Gruff legends, you realize the company has some interesting technology that will go a long way in helping with device software optimization (DSO). You also realize that Trolltech is a company of and for developers – after all, if trolls are exposed to sunlight they turn to stone. And, we all know that real developers prefer to work their magic in the wee hours of the night and avoid those harmful ultra-violet rays at all cost.

So why do I find Trolltech so intriguing? They have a simple product lineup – Qt and Qtopia. Their mission is to unleash the creative power of the developer. In this day and age of turning software development into a structured discipline instead of a creative expression, Trolltech’s mission is commendable. There should be a little creative expression in everything we do, otherwise it is just rote and quite honestly, boring. In the case of Trolltech, the developer is free to create, innovate, and explore.

The Qt product delivers true cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, AIX, etc.) application development and internationalization (I18N). Since we live in a global world with heterogeneous operating systems this is a huge win for global organizations. Trolltech Qt means you can truly develop for any platform in any locale.

Qtopia allows for the customization of the user experience of Linux based devices. This means the customer gets what they expect and demand – an easy to use graphical user interface.

With customers as diverse as Motorola, Skype, Adobe, Google, NASA, IBM, and Samsung, Trolltech proves that, true to their legend, trolls are sometimes nice and can help in navigating the not so nice world of software development.

What’s next?...life is a database.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

If Everyone Wrote Clean Code Would You Too?
As I mentioned earlier, Coverity is one of the vendors to watch. They really can make your code cleaner, more reliable, and more secure.

I saw a presentation given by Coverity CTO, Ben Chelf , that unequivocally proved to a room full of highly skilled developers that it is neither simple or pleasant to cover 100% of your code when searching for bugs and the simplest of things are not really as simple as they appear. At the end of the session, developers were clamoring to find out more about what Coverity could do for them. This is what every good demo sets out to accomplish.

Coverity views the software life cycle as “design / code / system test / QA / release. " The Coverity products fit squarely in the “code and system test” portion of the life cycle and focus on quality, security, and concurrency. By conducting 100% code coverage of all possible paths in the source code, Coverity can uncover bugs early in the life cycle – read as - before deployment of the code. This basic truth about detecting bugs earlier in the life cycle has been around for quite some time, yet many development organizations choose to not invest in this practice? Why?

The area of application security is another gold mine for Coverity. Coverity knows that the same security issues that exist in enterprise software applications will make appearances in device software. There is a remarkable bridge here with what Coverity can deliver in terms of application security. Yes, network security is important, but application security represents the last mile and the most opportunity for any would be hackers. One of the largest objections to application security tools has been the high rate of false positives. Coverity promises the false positive rate to be less than 20%. Security vulnerabilities are coming to a device or an application near you, so be prepared.

And, finally, Coverity can handle concurrency issues by detecting errors in multi-threaded programs.

Coverity has a stable of innovative products to help developers eliminate costly bugs and security vulnerabilities. And, Coverity understands that source code is source code regardless of where and what it may be powering. Software bugs show no favoritism and will appear in enterprise software or device software – it is up to the wise developer to eliminate them early and easily.

What’s next?...we live in a global world, shouldn’t your products and applications?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Understanding the Gem
One of the unique vendors I encountered at the Wind River Worldwide User Conference was Kuka Controls. The company, among other offerings, makes two products that can really enhance the experience between device software and a traditional Microsoft Windows environment. The two Kuka products with so much to offer in terms of integration are VxWin and CeWin.

Kuka’s VxWin allows Wind River’s VxWorks device software operating system to run on the same PC as Microsoft Windows. There are certainly benefits in terms of hardware reduction, overall weight decreases of the entire system, and reduced mean time between failure (MTBF). But the benefit around unification is delivered via integration of a device software operating system and the standard as well as ubiquitous Microsoft Windows operating system. This means a device can use Windows for a GUI display or enterprise connection. Some of the scenarios this enables are: completion of the ERP system for manufacturing facilities by connecting to enterprise systems, knowledge workers in the field with task specific devices connecting to enterprise data. VxWin can deliver solutions to bridge the gap between devices and the enterprise.

Kuka’s CeWin delivers the same sort of connectivity as VxWin but the connection to the device operating system comes via Microsoft Windows CE. CeWin allows Windows CE applications to reside in a Windows based environment. This saves on hardware costs but allows for practical business applications to co-exist in an environment that uses and needs the speed and functionality of a device software operating system.

If you believe there is a whole world of connectivity untapped, check out what Kuka can offer with its VxWin and CeWin products. These two products can begin to build the bridge that will deliver integration and unification between devices and traditional applications. This is something customers are demanding. The longer we wait to connect devices and applications the more difficult the process will be. Smart enterprises will deliver complete connectivity. Devices and business applications have a bright future together.

What’s next?...is it easy and cheap to find bugs early, if so, why doesn’t everyone do it?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Look What I Found...
One of the biggest benefits of going to conferences is coming across new and exciting vendors in the industry. While you are attending the conference and caught up in the excitement, it’s thrilling to find a new gem with innovative and creative ideas, products, and offerings. Last week at the Wind River Worldwide User Conference, I found five exciting “newish” companies and one stalwart with a new twist on things.

The five new companies I uncovered last week were:
Kuka Controls (VxWin)

And the one big surprise came in the form of IBM Rational with its realtime offerings.

There was one unique thing I noticed about each of these vendors. They all have products, services, or offerings around a theme of unification. Unification of devices. Unification of existing applications and device software. Unification of the enterprise to the field. This is exciting. These vendors have a clear vision that the problems faced in developing and delivering software is universal. And, they all have unique solutions that ultimately make the customer (whoever the customer may be) satisfied.

I’ll blog a little more about each of these vendors later this week, so stay tuned.

What’s next?...Doing the right things right the first time makes a big difference in the end.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The 2006 Wind River Worldwide User Conference concluded today. This conference was edgy. From the ultra-hip urban graphics on everything from signage to hotel room keys to a Phil Gordon hosted poker tournament, Wind River is shaking up a staid and conservative industry.

If there was one clearly identifiable theme at this conference, it was think differently. Wind River is at the heart of the DSO (Device Software Optimization) movement. While the core DSO tenets are standardization, openness of both standards and source, the espousing of best practices and an ecosystem it really means that all of the billions of IP enabled devices will be able to connect securely, reliably, and safely when and where they need to.

Shaking up an industry that has been content with building software for processors in devices is a tall task. Contentment is always a troublesome companion. Technology and the tools we build are capable of allowing constant connectivity. And, society is demanding connectivity. Society as a whole may not use the tech jargon of “connecting through a pervasive, low cost, reliable network to other devices”, but they are thinking it. They are thinking about connected homes where the lighting, sprinklers, media, and security systems are integrated, affordable, and easy to use. They are thinking about cell phones that can heal and replace themselves. They are thinking about eliminating the daily inconveniences of paperwork and envisioning the concept of a linked together personal space and being able to establish their own profile and identity in places such as their office, a hotel, or any checkout queue.

In reality, the DSO movement will be the catalyst for making our lives simpler through technology – it just has to be implemented.

Wind River showed that this vision takes more than a developer to deliver. In fact, it takes an ecosystem consisting of partners and suppliers, and ultimately customers.

Wind River has broken out of the tools for developers only mode and introduced products, solutions, and services for all of the stakeholders in the product life cycle. For the first time, a software vendor in the DSO market has released a product that will enable device software to be managed. This is a significant step forward in the DSO market. This now means device software will be accountable for its behavior. Wind River has products to ensure quality in the device software. And, of course, there are the Wind River developer products. One can argue that this life cycle is still lacking in some areas – of course this is true, there is still a need for security, data management, etc. But, what Wind River has done is take the bold move of delivering products against a vision. By delivering more tools and services to stakeholders in the product life cycle, the value of what the device software engineer is creating moves further up the stack of the organization to managers and executives. Over time, the economy of reuse will be realized in the organization.

Change is good. Looking at problems differently and thinking about the results is what makes change happen. Look around, talk to your customers and you may be surprised by what you find.

This has been a week full of communication and collaboration for an industry that needs to move beyond its original instantiation and on to the next generation. Use the raw materials created by vendors in the DSO market and lose the companion of contentment.

What’s next…requirements are essential – understand the needs before you proceed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Back to the Future…Almost
Do you recall the big vision of a few years ago…the one that said because of connected appliances in your house along with a low cost, pervasive and reliable network, when an appliance begins to fail, a simple message is sent to the appropriate repair person and before you even know your appliance has a problem a fix or patch has been dispensed.

I thought this concept was brilliant, with the exception of one fatal flaw…household appliances rarely break. Or, let me rephrase this, the unattractive ones that you want to replace but can only justify replacement if they break never fail!

I’ve lived my entire adult life not being able to justify replacing a traditional white appliance with a luxurious, high tech, minimalist design because the random and ugly but perfectly functioning white appliance would never break.

So, while I thought the concept was useful, I realized its practicality was lacking – those white appliances are just too durable – that old Maytag commercial is true. I finally moved into a new house with gleaming state of the art, high tech, stainless steel Jetson – like appliances. And, to tell the truth, I had kind of forgotten about the old promise / vision of self healing appliances. I thought that the promise / vision had been proffered to the public so frequently, that new appliances could probably communicate failure. Well, now that I was in my brand new house with my Jetson – like appliances I would have the opportunity to find out if that promise / vision had ever been delivered.

Within one month of being in my new house, my stainless steel, double decker Fisher & Paykel dishwasher displayed an error code message. It read “ERROR 2 – MOTOR” on both the top and bottom dishwasher – that’s right two of two dishwashers failed. My immediate thought was this promise / vision of self healing appliances is real. I waited to watch the next step. Well, the next step was the dishwasher just stopped. I had no clue what my next course of action should be. In my over 20 years as an adult I never had a white appliance fail. After some research, I called the repair person. Since my dishwasher was under warranty, the repair person had to call a representative. After three weeks of washing dishes by hand, a repair person arrived at my front door. Their mission, inspect the dishwasher to determine the problem. It seemed it was not sufficient that I reported the “ERROR 2 – MOTOR” problem. The repair person promptly pulled the error code up and told me the problem was the motor. Another two weeks went by and the repair person returned with the appropriate parts. After fixing the motor, the repair person commented on the ease of diagnosing the problem by just scrolling through the error code panel. He claimed the repair process was expedited! He has clearly been more than a little out of touch!

What could possibly be next…my Sub-Zero Wolf oven displayed an error code, I phoned the repair person and it’s been over a month, I still have no oven and not even a shadow of a repair person has phoned or stopped by. Maybe those ugly, white, clunky appliances aren’t so bad after all! Or maybe, just maybe the promise / vision of self healing appliances could be fulfilled. We have the technology, why not?

Today, Wind River announced the “Wind River Management Suite”. This technology will make it possible to use a pervasive low cost network to send diagnostic reports back to the originator, regardless of who or where they are. Now, there are no excuses. The devices can communicate! The raw technology materials are ready and waiting. The burden is now with the manufacturers.

What’s next?...exploring critical path technology.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Blinded by Science … and Business
Science makes great things possible. Science and business together provide us with solutions. When you think about the equation of: Needs + Features = Benefits this is what purveyors of technology need to offer to their customers.

Today, at the Wind River Worlwide User Conference I hosted a panel comprised of business and technology visionaries from Motorola, Philips Semiconductors, and Smiths Aerospace. These trailblazers in the DSO space are looking at things differently; far differently than they did 3 years ago. Today, they are concerned with who their customers are, what their customers expect from them, and building out a workable ecosystem of their value chain. In some cases, their competitors may also be their customer. They inhabit a world in 2006 that was not even dreamed of in 2003.

What is certain from the way these business leaders are thinking about DSO makes it clear that devices need to be reliable, secure, and integrated while delivering value to the customer. Devices are not isolated. Devices are not rogue. Device software is not homogeneous. And, it is clear these leaders are looking for complete end to end solutions to develop, run, and manage their projects for all of the participants in their ecosystem.

So while science may blind us, it’s business that delivers the benefit as long as the customer describes their needs. Remember, Needs + Features = Benefits.

What’s next?...is technology accepting our challenges?


p.s. my thanks to the panelists: Paul Steinberg of Motorola, Martijn van Dam of Philips Semiconductors, and John Alber of Smiths Aerospace.

Monday, May 15, 2006

In my last post, I mentioned the importance of beginning with the end in mind. This fundamental and basic design principle translates into the customer of the product being satisfied. Satisfied with how the technology works, its reliability, and the delivery of expectations. I think of the workaround “solutions” that we all accept and undertake because basic design principles were not followed. And, I think of so many promises that were made and broken regarding technology.

So, as I await the start of the 2nd annual Wind River Worldwide User Conference and the announcements that are sure to coincide – I think we are at an inflection point in the market. That is one of having sufficient tools and technology to deliver products that make a difference. And, the difference can be made if we begin with the end in mind. Ask the basic questions about use and break free of the technology searching for a solution shackle. Let’s identify problems and be creative, thoughtful, and purposeful in our technology solutions.

What’s next…identifying some of the problems that if we begin with the end in mind a real difference can be made.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Welcome to “What’s Next?”, a blog designed to provoke thought, incite debate, and spark dialog among not only technologists, but all who benefit or attempt to benefit from the technology we are so dependent upon.

On the whole, I believe the technology industry has done a superb job in creating the tools to make technology useful. I also believe that we have failed to really capitalize on said tools to make technology, ubiquitous, relevant, and most importantly transparent. We still struggle too much with technology. We need to think differently about what we are doing and really begin to solve all problems with the end in mind. So, just think about what I’ve said. My subsequent posts will make you realize that we can certainly attain far more than we have – after all, it’s just software, it can do anything!

What’s next for me….I will be at the Wind River User Conference in Orlando, FL from May 16 – 18. I’m hoping to be inspired by what I hear and see and to find some answers about “what’s next?”

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