In his Opinion piece in the July 4 issue (see page 4), Chappell Brown considers the problems of developing user interfaces for the emerging converged communications devices. In his closing statements, he indicates a desire to see product planners focus on voice communications aspects, with better quality-of-service as the prime target.
Brown's remarks reminded me of an observation I made several years ago of a telecommunications industry that, sadly, has not changed since then. The observation is that the last 10 or 15 years of development in telecommunications have focused not on what will improve life quality for the end user, but on increasing revenue for the operators.
In my opinion, the most successful products are those that represent a kind of symbiosis of end user and business-that is, a product that somehow improves quality of life or is useful for the end user and, as a result, allows solid sales for businesses. The original invention of the telephone did this, as did the audio CD, by providing very high-quality audio and nonlinear track selection with the click of a button (trivial perhaps, but it was a dramatic improvement over vinyl and tape). The invention of the cell phone also represented this positive symbiosis by facilitating business for executives and tradespeople alike.
However, in the last 10 years or so, innovation in the cellular industry, at least, has focused on one thing: profit. With the invention of CDMA, operators discovered they were able to improve capacity on their networks (i.e., profit) at the expense of call quality (i.e., not useful for the user at all and mostly just frustrating). From my perspective, all the incremental developments that have followed since have had the same profit-oriented goal in mind, neglecting value for users.
I'm not suggesting that profit is evil or wrong, or even expressing surprise that corporations don't care about their customers. I am trying to make the point that the most successful products do something good and valuable for their end users, and in this sense the telecommunications industry seems to have lost the plot. Recent articles have suggested the industry is in a quandary, since users aren't buying or using the "features" provided for them. Similarly, the MPAA and RIAA are in a quandary over downloading.
I think the message to these industries is simple: Get with the program, people, as your old business model is disappearing and users expect more than you are providing for them. Provide value to your customers or be discarded on the wayside as irrelevant.
Globalization juggernaut bad news for domestic engineers
Mike Clendinin's op-ed on globalization (page 4) and Patrick Mannion's interview with Virginia Tech professor Jeff Reed (page 24), both in the June 20 issue, showcase the globalization juggernaut. It's been disquieting to behold the emerging lockstep between academia and the engineering industry's media. Don't think the omission of readers' letters in that EE Times
issue went unnoticed; one can conclude that the domestic engineer is now being told, "Well, enough about you; here's how it's going to be."
In the brave new world of utopian globalists like Mr. Clendinin, surely a foreign industry would never halt production of a component essential to the high-tech soldier upon whom the U.S. military pins its hegemony. America's self-defense and security will be in jeopardy due to decay of its technology base from indifference or by intent.
But I am grateful for Mr. Reed's pronouncement about the two-year fuse lit on the coming explosion of foreign work visas. Now I have a time line to pick up new skills and leave the EE field for good.
Alexander S. Templeton
Chief executive officer
Brown Crow Inc.