Wednesday, August 10

The Other Software Tradeshow this Week

The Other Software Tradeshow this Week

David S. Evans

I met with a well-known technology company recently. Engineers dominate their workforce. Up until a few years ago most of them were hardware engineers. Today most of them are software engineers.

This shift signals an extraordinarily important transformation in the information technology revolution that drove the economy in the last quarter century. Hardware development and manufacturing remains critical and continues to generate plenty of innovation. But many businesses today are built around the software platforms that sit between the hardware—such as a mobile phone chipset or a server farm—and a rich ecosystem of end users, software developers, hardware makers, content providers, and others.

Software will be the key to success for many of the new products and services being unveiled this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But to really see the rising importance of software platforms, shift your gaze a couple thousand miles to Detroit where the North American International Auto Show also opens this week.

Automobiles provide a great example of how software platforms have increased their significance over time. Much of the recent innovation in automobiles hinges on new software platforms, from mechanical systems like power windows to web-based navigation systems to other applications that integrate into the dashboard.

In-car entertainment is another example, where the radio has been replaced with a docking station for the iPod and the car phone with smartphone-enabled Internet-access.

For now, many of these software platforms are closed to outsiders. But as more and more forward-thinking companies start producing software applications for automotive platforms, CES won’t be the only place to see new software unveiled in January.