The Innovator’s Dilemma

WARNING: The Innovator’s Dilemma may be hazardous to your company’s health.

In my most recent blog I talk about the innovator’s dilemma, and the choices facing test and measurement companies.  The innovator’s dilemma is an artifact of game theory, which explains many of the choices made by competitors. Here, I explain the tough choices ahead for traditional instrument companies. We all know the innovator’s dilemma, but we constrain ourselves even when we know we are facing it and what we must do.

The innovator’s dilemma is real. Typically the incumbents keep to their old strategy until it is too late and they become a niche. Faced with a threat that requires new skills or business model, they enhance the old core competencies to go after an ever more selective group of customers. Think about the Swiss watchmakers when they were faced with the quartz movement. Their mechanical designs became even more exotic.  But shouldn’t the marketing departments recognize the trend and propose a response? The innovator’s dilemma is so insidious that often the new technology isn’t recognized in the current market models, or is segmented out as something different and strange. Besides, they have a lot of current customers (the remaining ones) that are demanding new features. Culture plays a strong role internally, keeping an organization in denial about the threat.  As the new technology advances, the incumbents often delay an explicit strategy until it is too late.

Modular instrumentation has thrusted the test and measurement industry deeply into the realm of the innovator’s dilemma.  You can read my complete set of comments, and my advice to vendors in the final paragraph, here.

By Larry DJ

NI creates a new instrument class at NI Week 2012

National Instruments promised a big announcement at the opening Keynote address at NI Week, and they did not disappoint. The company didn’t just announce a new product, they announced a completely new product category–the Vector Signal Transceiver. While the hardware is very impressive–four instruments in a 3-slot PXI form factor–it’s the software that truly makes this a new instrument class.

I traveled to Austin, deep in the heart of Texas, to see the introduction personally.  Let’s start with the hardware. Included in a VST are four instruments: a VSG (Vector Signal Generator), a VSA (Vector Signal Analyzer), a Digital I/O port, and a flexible programmable FPGA. The product sports a 6 GHz frequency range with 80 MHz instantaneous bandwidth.

But the real surprise is the software. NI calls this a “software-designed instrument.” That is, the firmware is completely user programmable. The magic behind this is LabVIEW FPGA. Users can use LabVIEW to develop customer-specific and lightning fast instrument firmware that runs at hardware speed on the internal FPGA.

Read my blogpost here to get the complete article and commentary on the VST.

By Larry DJ

National Instruments Poised for Major Announcement at NI Week

Move over, Austin City Limits.   The headline act this coming week from the Texas capital of Austin won’t be sporting a bass or a steel guitar.   A keyboard maybe!  That’s because the industry shifts its attention to NI Week, the annual conference hosted by National Instruments at the Austin Convention Center.

And it promises to be very exciting. NI has been teasing the industry with this countdown timer, boasting “26 years ago, National instruments redefined instrumentation.  This summer we’re doing it again.”

That’s quite a statement, even for National instruments. NI has been dropping cryptic clues, the most recent being this sneak preview.   So we now know it has to do with RF- but what specifically?  Well, here’s one way to find out- follow this blog!

That’s right.  Your humble correspondent will be traveling this weekend to Austin in order to be there at the launch.  Bookmark the Outside The Box blog’s URL, as I will be adding my observations in the comment section below the post as events unfold. You can also follow me on Twitter at @modularconx.  As usual, I welcome all comments and respond quickly, so feel free to ask questions as well.

So, grab yourself a Lone Star beer, fire up your computer, and read my preview of NI Week and the subsequent announcements here.

By Larry DJ