I have noticed at recent industry conferences and exhibitions a predominant focus on software, marking a larger seachange in the military and aerospace industry. Case in point: ESC 2010 in San Jose.
ESC was always the venue at which I, as a mil-aero systems architect and geek-of-all-trades, could roam exhibit aisle after aisle looking at hardware. Tangible chips and boards, shrinking silicon and innovative I/O that I could pick up, hold, and inspect. This was true even of ESC Boston in the fall of 2009—just roughly seven months prior to ESC Silicon Valley 2010.
When I roamed the aisles this time around, the largest and most active booths were those of software vendors—Mentor Graphics, included. Microsoft Embedded was the Signature Sponsor, in fact, manning two large booths.
Is it just me, or has software taken over?
It is interesting to see trends change over time, especially from a hardware-centric to a software-centric focus. When I was in the mil-aero system design and development trenches, so to speak, innovative and reliable hardware was the main focus. All eyes were essentially on us, the hardware engineers. Software was looked at a bit like a value-add, and came virtually last in the workflow, before testing. (This was unless, of course, we were updating a legacy mil/aero system that required Sun Microsystems’ Solaris, for example.)
Some speculate that software will continue to garner much more attention—not only in the commercial world, but also in mil/aero environments. We are rapidly progressing toward an application-driven world. On the civilian front, one need only look at the iPhone, iPad, and Apple’s App Store. “Apps for everything” is its current tagline…and I don’t doubt it.
How long before Soldiers will want the same level of convenience, robustness, variety, ingenuity, availability, and ease of use on the battlefield? How will the Department of Defense, and technology companies that aid them, deliver it while also maintaining safety and security in the network-centric battlefield?
“Is there a DoD App Store in our future?,” ponders this mil/aero geek.