AvantGo Inc. is all about convergence. It's the convergence of the Internet and the wireless world, of hardware and software, of private and public networks, of desktop applications and handheld devices. And while that could be the foundation of a huge potential market opportunity, it is also a unique challenge for the people who are working to develop the technology, because these engineers must be well-versed in several different-and difficult-areas.
AvantGo creates software, which runs on handheld wireless devices and also the routers that transmit information to these small devices. Web-based applications can run on PDAs and advanced cell phones by continually being updated, making them as useful as a wired machine. Combining wireless technology with large routers and small embedded systems and merging all that with a robust browser interface is no small task, and co-founder and chairman Felix Lin said his engineering staff needs to be skilled in all these areas.
"We provide a bridge between the LAN and the handheld device," Lin explained. "Most wireless connections have limited bandwidth and are unreliable. Our software smoothes over those problems and allows for reliable wireless connections."
Lin sees a nearly unlimited market. "We are at the intersection of three of the hottest markets right now: the Internet, wireless and enterprise computing," he said. "The opportunity is huge."
But it is not easy to pull this off. Right now, software written for the PC is exactly that: for a PC. Wireless devices only have limited functionality and the Internet is confined mostly to the desktop. "There is a big disconnect between all of these different applications," said Lin. "Building this bridge between them is a huge engineering problem."
|Felix Lin's AvantGo is at the intersection of three disparate entities--Internet, wireless and enterprise computing--each of which requires unique skills. |
His engineering staff must be skilled in database software, communication systems and wireless technology, three fields that are not exactly closely related. "I am always looking for people with a cross-disciplinary background," said Lin. "People with multiple skills will always be highly valued."
However, this doesn't mean that everyone has to be an expert at everything. While Lin expects to see more and more engineers with strengths in multiple fields, he also knows there will always be a strong demand for specialists who know all the ins and outs of one particular niche.
"The demands placed on engineers are historically the same: build things," observed Lin. "But when you look at the specific skill sets that are required today, it's different than it was in the past."
Engineers are always being asked to do something that has never been done before. Lin said that when NASA was assigned to go to the moon, there wasn't a pool of people with experience in that field, but they still managed to take the skills they had and solve the problem.
Creating the next hot application is the same way. What AvantGo is doing is difficult, but not impossible. "When you can solve a problem that nobody else has solved, that's when you can make money," said Lin.