National Instruments, which created the concept of object oriented computing in automation with LabView in the mid-1980s, is in the middle of NI Week, in Austin, TX, and I am enjoying getting back to my old stamping grounds (I lived in the Austin area from 1985 to 1994 working for Texas Nuclear). It is a pleasant day in Austin, and I spent about 45 minutes interviewing Dr. James Truchard, the President and CEO of National Instruments.
We talked about the importance of the LEGO Mindstorm/NI alliance, about which we both agree. Dr. T (as his adoring employees refer to him) noted that NI has successfully moved out of the world of test and measurement into industrial applications, but that the applications they are finding are significantly greater in the world of embedded computing than in the traditional discrete and batch and process automation niches. Market’s bigger, too…$30 billion/year, according to Dr. T.
One of the reasons, he noted, that NI supports Mindstorm is that NI has always been interested in improving productivity, and with fewer actual people available (demographic decline in North America and Western Europe and China) and even fewer of those available interested in science, engineering and mathematics educations and careers, productivity is becoming an even bigger part of the picture.
At the exhibit hall, there is a significant portion of the hall dedicated to use of Labview and the other NI products in education, including educators manning booths from Tufts University, and student versions of Labview. There is also, of course, a huge display of Mindstorm NXT products, with the software running on Macintoshes…proving again that Windows does not have a monopoly on control.