Hello all and thanks Max for replying to the comments.
These are very good comments and I can see many questioning if this business function is really "most critical". I would probably agree that the comment might NOT be a "most critical" business function across all industries.
However, my background is the RF industry and I do believe that "most critical" is an accurate statement.
This space over the last several years can be compared to the personal computer evolution. The smart phone / tablet market has changed so rapidly that a single missed opportunity can sink your stock in a day.
Why I still hold this opinion is that these products, as well as market timing, is determined by the likes of Samsung, Nokia, Apple, Huawei, et al. The performance specifications, package type and footprint are extremely difficult to achieve and typically will require several design spins. All eyes and ears are waiting for new results out of these prototype lines and ready to act.
@Tom: I do have some doubts that any part of a product development process can be labeled the most critical stage...
Well, I can't argue with you there -- every stage is critical as far as that goes -- but remember that it's not I who said it was the "most critical" -- it was the guy who wrote to me -- Leo Sennott -- so I think we will have to bring him into the converstaion ... I shall "ping" him now...
Not so bitter, Max! And i should know better than to raise the question at a site populated by electrical designers, but I do have some doubts that any part of a product development process can be labeled the most critical stage. Sounds like a good poll question for the community!
I do agree that prototyping is critical, whether one is working on hardware, software or both. Wearing my software developer hat, one of the first things I typically did was to prototype the GUI to get early feedback from propsective users (there are many tools available or this, eg., Balsamic).
These days there are plenty of options for going beyond bread-boarding to get a product in hand that almost looks like the final one! 3D printers (stereolithography prototyping machines for those you more technical!) have enabled the modern day startups that can produce almost functioning & enviable proto's.
The most value I get out of protos are feedbacks on problems in the design that often escape brainstorming on a white board.
Max: You gave us a lot to chew on there, but I'm not sure I like the taste. True, the economics of a faster supply chain, fast-evolving technology, fickle consumer tastes and more contribute to the design of new products, and I'm not sure prototyping is THE most important factor anymore. It's important, don't get me wrong. I believe in prototypes, QA, analysis, focus groups and all the conventional steps in designing products. Isn't it more like a step in staircase now, rather than the most important step?