Predictions: Spring 2020

The thing about predictions, particularly in tech, is that when you’re wrong, you can lose a lot of money, and you can look foolish while you’re at it.

In 2007, the then-CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, laughed at Apple’s newly-announced iPhone. “Five hundred dollars?! Fully subsidized with a plan? … That is the most expensive phone in the world, and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine.” He walked the statement back a bit by saying the iPhone might sell very well. And of course, that’s exactly what happened.

Today, it’s easy to see Ballmer’s error about the iPhone. But things weren’t so clear in 2007.

While we can’t predict the future exactly, we can certainly see trends. We can look at the markets, we can understand the industries, and we can learn from the past. Every day, we make assertions, and we bank on them. As designers and manufacturers, we choose technologies, we select components, we decide what to buy, when to buy it, and how much. We do our best to protect against obsolescence issues and platform-migration headaches. We don’t predict the future, but we can anticipate it.

So what does the future hold for PC104? Time will tell, but here are some opinions based on what we’ve seen, what we’re planning, and what we expect.

As more computational requirements are pushed to the edges of applications, further from servers and closer to sensors and points of data collection, we’ll see a continued trend toward box-level solutions. PC104 systems will continue to thrive in this arena because of their small footprint, proven ruggedness, and strong size-to-performance ratio. The sweet spot that PC104 fills will continue to be an important area driving overall efficiency.

Because of its proven reliability, PC104 is often selected as a preferred form factor for projects that require long life cycles, and for projects where repair and replacement are significant logistical challenges. This will continue to be the case. Remote areas will still require reliable embedded systems. Atop turbines, on top of the water and far below, in the air and in space — PC104 serves these applications well, and it will continue to do so. Of course, PC104 also meets the needs of many other applications where accessing the hardware is relatively easy. Transportation, security, industrial, infrastructure, defense, research: All of these areas have been (and will continue to be) places where PC104 excels.

PC104 has shown itself to have staying power in the market. This is one of the reasons engineers confidently choose PC104 for projects that take months or years to develop. They’re designing in not just “embedded” but “PC104 embedded” to protect against obsolescence, set up for comprehensive migration to new components and technologies, and ensure that what’s in development today will be available two years from now when programs reach production phases and forward to five years from now when they require legacy support. The PC104 systems you see in development today will still be in procurement channels five and even 10 years from now. And because of its proven track record, we’ll see more organizations recommending – and even specifying – use of systems based on PC104.

As technology advances, so does the need for embedded systems to meet new connectivity speeds. PC104 leaders are working together to address these upcoming needs. In the near future, we’ll see the release of new specifications that meet next-gen speeds while offering a clear path forward for what exists today.

Technology is more accessible than ever. The maker movement, on-demand short-run production, and open-source designs have burst open a world of possibility. It’s changed the way we think about technology. Knowledge-sharing and cooperation between companies is trending. It’s no different with PC104: As we develop our newest PC104 specifications – just as we have with all of our previous specs – we’ll see exciting contributions from our member companies; companies that continue to lean forward making bold predictions and anticipating the future needs of the industries they serve.