Time-ly Technology

The November 12, 2007, edition of Time magazine has a special section, The Tech Buyer’s Guide. It lists a number of fascinating gadgets and products.

Here are a list of some of them. I picked these since each meets one of the following conditions:

  • It demonstrates the relentless advance of such basic technology as chip size or hard disk size;
  • It is a small device that contains software in some form;
  • It is software;
  • It tickled my fancy.

A Robot You Can Relate To: Domo

Weed ‘Em and Reap: HortiBot

Making the Car Chase Obsolete: StarChase Pursuit Management System

Good Morning, Sunshine: glo Pillow

The $1,000 Football Helmet: HTS helmet

Sound Tracker: Portable People Meter

An ATM for Books: Espresso Book Machine

Size Matters: 45-nanometer core processor

The Hard Drive: “This year Hitachi released the first ever 1-terabyte hard drive, the Deskstar 7K1000.”

The $150 Laptop: XO Laptop

Blood Simple: way to convert other blood types to O

Take a Walk: Google Map’s Street View

Cheap: RCA EZ201 Small Wonder

Talk is Cheap: Palm Centro

Bag Some Rays: Eclipse Fusion laptop bag, Solio Hybrid 1000, HYmini

Cheap: Creative Zen Stone Plus, Samsung P2

Net Worth: Linksys dual-band wireless router: Belkin N1 Vision

Loosey Goosey: Clique Hue HD

Good Call: Netgear SPH200W Wi-Fi phone

Back It Up: Iomega eGo portable hard drive

Desktop Computer: Zonbu

I hadn’t heard of most of these gadgets, and I expect I’ll be buying at least a few of them. I do know I have already signed up to buy an XO Laptop, the “OLPC” (One Laptop Per Child) computer.

If you are just looking for neat new gadgets then you can move on now, for the rest of this post is for a different audience.

If you aren’t a software developer then can leave now, though you might want to hang around if you have any interest in Linux,open-source and free software, or want to see some keen insight and great writing.

Ok, fellow programmers. Go learn more about some of these gadgets. You will find that most of them contain software in some form.

Now pick a couple of them, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • If you were a lead developer for the company producing the gadget, one of the programmers who would be writing the code that your company would rely on, is there a compelling reason that requires you use Windows to develop and deploy that code?
  • If there weren’t any known solution available, which SDK would you pick to develop the code: The GNU/Linux SDK or the Windows SDK?
  • Are there any licensing costs that require you pay a certain amount for each gadget your company produces?

Can you think of similar questions I haven’t listed here? I bet you can.

I draw several lessons from the list of gadgets and hacks:

  • Software is inexorably moving to the web, leaving the traditional client/server model behind.
  • The desktop/laptop is giving way to the special-purpose appliance, what we programmers call an “embedded device.”
  • Much software is also inexorably moving into these embedded devices:
  • The Linux SDK for such embedded devices is the best available, and also has both low acquisition cost and a small form factor.

I’m damn glad I don’t work for Microsoft’s Strategy Department, because I can’t think of a strategy to counter this changing software universe other than an extended retreat in strength based on press releases and litigation.

Can you?

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