Hardware Is, Well, Hard

December 1, 2009

Short honk: there are two examples of what I call “you don’t know what you don’t know” in my feed reader here in the lovely and talented Madlanta airport. The first is from the story “Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader Delay: Merry Christmas, Amazon!”, published on CRN.com. The story reveals that the Nook is delayed, which is a problem for Barnes & Noble and good news for Amazon and maybe Sony. The story said:

The delays in its Nook shipments may not be the end of Barnes & Noble’s e-reader difficulties. Earlier this month, Spring Design, the producers of the Alex e-reader, filed a lawsuit against Barnes & Noble, alleging the company infringed on its patents with its Nook. According to Spring Design, the company and Barnes & Noble discussed confidential information about the Alex early this year under a nondisclosure agreement.  Keating wrote that the delay in Nook shipments is not related to the Spring Design lawsuit, and that Barnes & Noble’s corporate policy is to not comment on litigation.

The second item is about a mobile computing device. The story “The End of the Crunch Pad” explained:

It’s a sad day at TechCrunch HQ. Hitting the publish button on this post, which makes all of this so…final…is a very hard thing to do. I’m enraged, embarrassed, and just…sad. The CrunchPad is now in the DeadPool.

Forget the two companies whose hardware challenges comprise the core of these two news stories. The larger message for me is that hardware is difficult. Stated another way, hardware * is * hard. In this era of fast changing gadgets and accelerated hardware cycles, I think it is very easy for executives to assume that a particular task is easy. I see this same problem in search and retrieval. In our era of point-and-click and new mobile devices every week or two, those without technical savvy can assume that a task is a no brainer. Actually hardware is a brainer, and it requires a wide range of skills that users of hardware rarely possess.

In the two examples of hardware misfires, there is a lesson: just because something looks easy and a marketer says something is easy, that something may be very difficult. Learning the lessons on the fly can be expensive and the equivalent of giving a competitor a turbo boost. Knowledge is not something that can be assumed.

Stephen Arnold, December 1, 2009

Oyez, oyez, this is a freebie. Man, I am glad there are so many agencies eager to regulate what the addled goose writes. I get to report to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an agency “into” hardware.


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