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Wild rides and hot technologies

-December 19, 2012

It’s safe to say that 2012 has been a wild ride for all of us. The macroeconomic climate, from Europe across the oceans to China, has seen so much uncertainty and stagnation that corporations and analysts alike, for fear of missing their numbers, are making the most conservative forecasts possible. Indeed, many have already ratcheted back their expectations for 2013.

We had hoped the US election would lift the veil on at least some of the uncertainty. Alas, however, the “fiscal cliff” looms, and as of this writing there is no resolution in sight. We can only hope Congress and the administration opt not to kick the can down the road, because anything short of a full agreement only keeps the uncertainty alive—and cripples our ability as individuals, small businesses, and corporations to innovate around the flaws of any decision that does come down.

Speaking of innovation, EDN highlights the best of what you, our engineering community, had to offer this year, from the Hot 100 products to the hot technologies that you helped propel forward. In 2013, those developments and products will form the foundation of what looks to be a landmark time for electronics engineering. Massive shifts are coming next year that will reflect and build on the turmoil of the year that’s now almost past.

This year’s Apple v. Samsung drama is a case in point. Samsung “lost” round one, but so what? Right now, Samsung and Apple (read: Android and iOS) are all that matter in the smartphone/mobile-computing/tablet landscape. Nokia is fading fast, and for Research in Motion the writing has been on the wall for some time. Microsoft’s Surface is pushing to make headway but won’t be a major factor anytime soon.

So what’s the upshot? Four implications come to mind. First, mobile digital processing options will gel around whatever Samsung and Apple choose to back; their picks will become almost de facto standards. If you’re not designed into one of their devices or platforms, you have a tough road ahead. Just ask Texas Instruments and its OMAP team.

Second, apps continue to rule the roost and keep absorbing the neuronal firings of our youngest and brightest. Who wants to waste time studying EE basics when an app can make you rich? With so many apps flooding the market, the shine may be coming off that brass ring, but we’re coping with the aftereffects. Who’s dreaming up the next big system design win that doesn’t depend on a Samsung or Apple platform and so will reignite the demand for parts—from passives to processors—to keep the industry humming again? Why bother designing a full system when you can take the base platform on a tablet or smartphone, with all its processing power, sensors, interface wizardry, and connectivity, and just add your idea or IP in the form of an app?

Third, it’s all about the cloud now, and not just for IT services. As TI’s Gene Frantz points out in his take on the cloud in "Opportunities abound in cloud 'clutter'," opportunities abound for designers to innovate within what Frantz calls the “clutter” around the cloud. Read on if you’re stuck for ideas on where to focus next.

The first three implications lead to the fourth: analog. While the layoffs across the analog industry may indicate otherwise, analog is hot. If you’re an engineer with a solid background in analog design and an understanding of software and analog design software tools, prep your resume. Heck, we’re even in the process of hiring a full-time analog designer right now here at UBM Tech. We’re looking for an LED engineer, too, by the way.

So, while it’s been a crazy year, you’ve not stopped doing what you do: identifying opportunities and engineering the best paths to leverage them. We’ve had a bit of fun this year, too, relaunching EDN.com and spotlighting all the conversations and contributions you have offered over the year.

In recognition of those contributions, Linear Technology has kindly partnered with us to offer $5,000 to the winner of the 2012 Jim Williams Contributor of the Year Award, in recognition of the person who best embodies what contributing to the community is all about. We look forward to announcing the winner early in 2013 as part of our ACE Awards at DESIGN West.

In the meantime, from myself and the EDN staffers you’ve come to know even better in the past few months—Rich Pell, Suzanne Deffree, Amy Norcross, Steve Taranovich, Stephen Evanczuk, Carolyn Mathas, Jessica MacNeil, Janine Love, and Diana Scheben—have a great holiday and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.


Contact me at patrick.mannion@ubm.com.

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