Eying opportunities abroad

It is an honor and a privilege to be elected to the position of chairman of the PC/104 Consortium for 2006. I am excited to assume this role, and I hope to help bring about some significant changes and growth in the coming year. During my participation in consortium activities over the past few years, several key issues have become clear:

  1. PC/104 is successful because of its wide acceptance by vendors around the world. The huge supply of PC/104-compatible CPU and I/O boards from more than 100 manufacturers makes PC/104 an attractive platform for embedded system designers. Customers consider a wide supply base of interoperable products to be a key indicator of a technology’s legitimacy and currency, and this gives them confidence in selecting PC/104 as the backbone of their products. Over time it has become evident that, more than anything else, this wide range of suppliers and choices is what makes PC/104 successful.

  2. PC/104 is a global technology. When PC/104 was first introduced, all of the vendors were located in North America. But today PC/104 is supported by vendors in the top markets of North America, Europe, and Asia, as well as far away places such as South Africa. No one vendor, country, or continent has the lion’s share of ideas or innovation when it comes to PC/104 products. Each company has its own point of view and contributes its own ideas to make PC/104 successful. The PC/104 Consortium must welcome the participation of companies on all continents to capitalize on the great wealth of ideas and innovation available.

  3. Technology is advancing rapidly. What was a groundbreaking idea 14 years ago, when PC/104 was first introduced, is less appealing today in light of recent advances, including larger and more power-consuming processors, faster buses, smaller connectors, and new packaging concepts. The embedded computer market has become more fragmented, with many options available to customers. This multitude of competing solutions makes it difficult for customers to choose the best solution for their needs, and the perpetual advance in technology poses a serious threat to the continued growth of PC/104.

  4. PC/104 vendors are not sufficiently engaged in the consortium. We estimate that more than 50 manufacturers of PC/104 products around the world are not yet members of the consortium. In addition, many existing members, even at the executive level, are not active participants in our ongoing activities. We need to do a better job of communicating with the PC/104 community and showing them the benefits the PC/104 Consortium has to offer.

Based on these observations, the PC/104 board of directors has established several major goals for the coming year:

  1. Introduce a new form factor, PC/104 Express (and by extension EPIC Express and EBX Express) that incorporates PCI Express and maximizes buy-in from vendors around the world. The inclusion of the PCI Express bus will help PC/104 keep up with advances in embedded computing technology that are necessary for use in the highest-performance products. Because of the strong appeal of a wide and compatible supply base noted previously, any future standards created or adopted by the PC/104 Consortium should seek acceptance and support from as many vendors as possible.

  2. Establish PC/104 groups in Europe and Asia to attract the participation and ideas of PC/104 vendors on those continents. The PC/104 board of directors recently voted to adopt regional vice presidents for North America, Europe, and Asia (see Table 1). These people will serve as catalysts for building membership, reaching out to vendors in their regions, and engaging in regional marketing activities. My plan is to have these groups hold regular conference calls just as we do here in the United States to discuss and provide input on key issues facing the PC/104 industry.

  3. Upgrade the PC/104.org website to increase its usefulness to customers and members. The official website should be a key and valuable focal point for vendors and customers looking for information about PC/104.

  4. Increase member benefits and encourage greater membership and participation by PC/104 vendors.

Name

Company

Position

E-mail address

Jonathan Miller

Diamond Systems

Chairman

jmiller@pc104.org

Doug Stead

Tri-M Systems

North American VP

dstead@pc104.org

Martin Bodenschatz

Kontron

European VP

mbodenschatz@pc104.org

Johnny Wang

VIA Technologies

Asia/Pacific VP

jwang@pc104.org

Table 1

I hope to conduct a member survey in the next few months to ask for your ideas and suggestions on how the PC/104 Consortium can better serve your needs and what we should be doing to continue building on our success and growing the market. I, along with the regional VPs, welcome your comments and suggestions anytime by e-mail.