Sunnyvale, Calif. — National Instruments observed the 20th anniversary of LabView's introduction by releasing a major revision of the venerable software environment. By combining an open de- sign platform with an advance in graphical system design, LabView 8.20 embraces multiple tools and design approaches.
Market watchers said the changes move National Instruments (NI) deeper into The Mathworks' territory and could open doors for LabView in the modeling and system development portion of the tool market.
The revision “delivers powerful, custom measurement capabilities that can streamline product development through an integrated design, prototyping and deployment platform,” said James Truchard, president, CEO and co-founder of National Instruments (Austin, Texas).
As designers integrate more functionality into their products, previous-generation design and simulation tools from different domains have had to be made to work together. In the integrated environment of LabView 8.20, designers have a graphical system design platform for test, control and embedded-system development. The re- lease extends the LabView graphical data-flow language with native support for text-based math via MathScript, a tightly integrated textual programming language. Using MathScript, engineers can integrate existing m-files created using the Matlab software from The MathWorks, or they can create new scripts with LabView and then mix and match graphical and text-based approaches.
The enhancements address the “architectural workbench,” or the tools that will be used for ESL design, according to Gary Smith, vice president of research at Gartner Dataquest (San Jose, Calif). “This release will let National compete with, as well as complement, the tools offered by The MathWorks,” said Smith. “Both tools have different genealogies, but they are both now addressing system designers and embedded design.
“The LabView 8.20 release is strong enough to make users of other tools take a hard look at the new, integrated tool suite. It will be interesting to see the two companies battle it out,” he said.
The release incorporates improvements in control design and simulation performance, and it accelerates development of real-time system prototypes that employ personal computers, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) or custom designs. The soft- ware helps lower the cost of prototyping by allowing designers to pull in algorithms using MathScript, prototype the systems using the graphical tools and then port the design to solutions such as an FPGA or a digital signal processor, said Ray Almgren, National Instruments' vice president of product marketing.
“The tools make it easy for almost anyone to turn ideas into prototypes by entering concepts and algorithms using the graphical entry tools and the MathScript software,” Almgren said.
According to Matt Volckmann, a senior analyst at market analysis firm Venture Development Corp. (Natick, Mass.), the LabView upgrade moves National into competitive position in the dynamic design tool market. Volckmann sees a solid opportunity for the company to move into the modeling and system development segments.
In addition to MathScript, LabView 8.20 includes object-oriented programming constructs that improve code modularity and reuse, as well as the ability to back up and recover virtual instruments automatically.
Also included are a Web services wizard, for transforming any .Net Web service into a library of virtual instruments, and an interface wizard, which creates wrapper virtual instruments from shared libraries and header files. An OpenGL tool provides sophisticated 3-D rendering on user interfaces. The software supports simultaneous multiuser control of LabView applications through Web browsers, thereby allowing distributed teams to collaborate.
Other features include advanced support for FPGAs, control functions and a software module for PDAs.