How the next generation of smart, open, wireless, consumer electronic devices will be transforming our lives.
Jan 18, 2010
What Would Google Do -- with Consumer Electronics today?
If Google were designing consumer electronics (CE) today, what would the CE industry look like? Google is reported to be the fastest growing company in the history of the world. Jeff Jarvis, author of the book What Would Google Do says in his presentation:
"I think the most important lesson of Google to me is that Google did not grow big by borrowing huge amounts of capital to make huge acquisitions, to own and control a huge amount of the world. Google instead grew huge by building platforms upon which others can succeed. And the fact that Google managed to help others succeed and others create is a really important lesson." And this is not how businesses used to operate.
In the past Consumer Electronics companies succeeded by creating products that were proprietary and closed systems. It was largely required to do so by the nature of the electronics and what the business model has been. The result was, you got what you got. If you did not like the way a consumer product worked such as your light timer, you could not change its design operation.
My father's light timer (see my posting) was a phenomenal product for its day. It required a team of engineers a year to design. They had to layout by hand the traces for a custom chip to embed their programming logic. This was in order to make a simple-to-use timer that would be small enough to replace a light switch. One with functions never before possible like a self-learning mode and some randomization so your lights don't go on exactly at the same minute each day and your house looks more lived in even if you were not home.
I visited my dad's lab at Dynascan (now called Cobra) where he, Lou Schornack and others were doing the design around 1980. On the wall I saw a huge layout of all the traces of the chip. Several patents eventually covered the innovative design and it became one of the best selling light timers of all time. But it is what I am calling consumer electronics version and release 1.0. It is not what Google would do if designing a light timer today. Google would do CE2.0.
As Jeff Jarvis says, Google would create a platform. Google would make it possible so others create and succeed. And this is what has started to happen to electronics with the advent of the Arduino integrated development environment. Arduino allows people to do in a couple of days what it took my dad's team a year to do. Arudino is an open source environment that allows for easier programming of micro controllers. Check it out. And check out the fast rising companies Arduino is helping create like Sparkfun. Consumer electronics are about to dramatically change just as surely as Google changed the world.