Gustavo Castro was on stage last week at National Instruments' company show in Austin, presenting his topic before some 3,000 engineers in the audience. He was demonstrating how a new NI instrument could more accurately detect the chords hesitant and off-key coming out of his electric guitar.
Then he broke into a beautiful guitar riff worthy of Carlos Santana, and the audience was wowed for 40 seconds or so.
A few minutes later, Katharine O'Doherty came on stage to demonstrate an image acquisition board. She shot a dart through a water balloon, recording the image at 1,000 frames per second, and replayed the video in slow motion. Equally cool. How water holds together for a fraction of a second before dropping is fascinating.
Perhaps National Instruments is just lucky, and its plug-in instruments just lend themselves to interesting demos. More likely is that co-founder and CEO James Truchard and his staff actually think a bit about how to show that NI's new products have a relationship to the real world, beyond the benchtop.
To be sure, the several thousand engineers and scientists who come here each August are more than just customers. Most of them are cultish LabView programmers from all corners of the globe, brought together for a few days by their mutual bond of using the graphical control software to control NI's line of "virtual instruments."
National Instruments is not a huge company, with 3,200 employees and annual revenue of about $500 million. But it is extremely savvy about marketing. Frost and Sullivan analyst Sunderraju Ramachandran said, "They have never introduced a product just on a hope. They look at all the possible options. They have mostly young engineers as their sales guys who are constantly talking to end users, finding out what they need."
That's what life in the modern electronics industry is all about, right? It's not about outsourcing or trade barriers. It's about talking to customers, developing exciting new products that aren't outrageously expensive and starting the cycle of enthusiastic creativity all over again.
And don't forget the cool demos.
David Lammers covers SoC process equipment. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org