“So where are the flying cars?” asks my son Brad, who was raised on bright promises for the new millennium. He expected everyone to be zipping around in an airborne vehicle by this time. Come to think of it, so did I, based on prophecies I was fed a generation earlier. I suppose if the future were easier to predict, we would all have long since made killings in the stock market. What with the vagaries of prognosticating, and since Jeanne Dixon is not in my direct bloodline, I'm not about to make any predictions for the new millennium that would set me up for future ridicule. Instead I'll play it safe and limit myself to noting a few things that may be worth watching in the coming months and years.
For example, how much longer will Moore's Law be in effect? We can assume that semiconductor technologies will continue to reduce transistor size for a while at least, making transistors cheaper and more plentiful. Sooner or later, though, the laws of physics will call a halt to the incredible shrinking transistor. The maneuvers to postpone reaching this limit should prove worth watching.
The machinations in the development tools and RTOS business should provide plenty of entertainment as well. We've seen the first stages of consolidation, most recently with the acquisitions of ISI by Wind River and Cygnus Solutions by Red Hat. How many more mergers will follow?
Will changes in design methodologies brought about by increasing software content in electronic systems and shorter market cycles lead to new tools to support new design methodologies? What will be the impact of executable models in embedded software development? What's the likelihood of actually generating production code with a push of a button? As new tools evolve and gain acceptance, it will be interesting to see if the companies that produce them will be swallowed by the larger tools companies, or whether they will instead grow to compete with these companies.
Microsoft should offer some amusement of its own. Will it be split up, and if so will the disparate parts thrive? What, if anything, will become of Windows CE? Just watching Microsoft jockey for position in the post-PC era ought to give us hours of diversion.
The open source phenomenon should also prove intriguing. Will this trend continue, and if so, what will be its impact for embedded software developers? What will its effect be on software licensing models and on the companies that thrive on license revenues?
Consolidation among the single-board computer companies is also something to watch for. Several mergers have already occurred during the past year or so, and we may see more. Will any companies be left standing besides Motorola and Solectron when the dust settles?
The rate at which bandwidth is increasing is often compared to Moore's Law. Will bandwidth continue to double at the same rate transistors do? What changes will this increase bring about?
Although it may be a curse to say “may you live in interesting times,” I suspect that we are at least in for some entertaining times-almost as amazing as flying cars actually appearing in our local automobile showrooms. But no predictions.
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