I'm happy to have my development paradigm changed every 5 to 10 years (as long as it's better). At the moment the .NET offerings are a lot cheaper, have a larger user base and accordingly better community support.
Some quick comments/opinions after following and reading this post's trail:
1) I see repeated comments about the NI cRIO and sbRIO high hardware costs -- and how at those costs, mass munafucturing is not economically feasible using those plaftorms -- this is an ABSOLUTELY TRUE statement. There is most ALWAYS a trade off. By using NI hardware, the software can be developed more quickly therefore offsetting the PROJECT cost and getting to a market more quickly. For a 'productized' device, yes, hardware cost can and should be reduced. Software development cost WILL go up because the time to develope the software will increase related to the development environment required. But, with that cost being spread over multiple units, the total product cost would be reduced. A little common sense a econ 101 has to be applied.
2) A comment was made that LabVEW is used to generate hardware sales. As my teenage daughter would say 'DUH!'. I believe if you go back through the history of LABView, the purpose was to provide the scientist/engineer a method to take a 'device' and quickly have data WITHOUT being a programmer. LABView was a software product to support and boost hardware sales.
3) And my FINAL comment -- because of a project I am currently working, I KNOW that groups within NI understand holes in their offerings. And, because of the group with which I'm working, I KNOW that there is an interest to fill those holes. But, again, Econ 101 dictates that it MUST make sense and have a return on investment.
I also agree that LabVIEW not only generates a large amount of NI's revenue (my estimate is 40%), but it also results in the majority of hardware sales. My estimate (and NI are very secretive about these matters) is that over 80% of NI's earnings is directly or indirectly from LabVIEW sales. Just take a look at the NI Idea Exchange; 91% of all posts are for LabVIEW. LabVIEW is National Instruments and National Instruments is LabVIEW.
It is interesting to hear that NI understands that there are holes in their offerings and that there is interest in filling those holes. Over the past 3 months I've spend a lot of time reviewing NI's offerings in order to work out the direction for our future developments, which will mainly be in the embedded arena for the next few years, and came to the same conclusion. What NI needs is some innovation and a paradigm shift in their marketing. It's been a long time between innovations with the last that I can identify happening over 8 years ago (Events in LabVIEW, cRIO and LabVIEW for Microcontrollers - that's it).
NI's current dilemma reminds me of a similar situation at a company I previously worked at. We had a lucrative contract to deliver a product that we knew we could rationalise using the latest chipsets and dramatically reduce in size and cost. We saw this as eating into a profitable part of the business. We lost the entire contract to a competitor. I learnt an important lesson back then - look after your customers and the profits will come.
I feel for NI and their marketing decisions. Which way to go? All I can say is that I'm glad that I have a much larger world to select my embedded development environment from. And the offerings are much more exciting than when I last did embedded development over 15 years ago.
This is what the next sbRIO should look like:
2) Development board: http://www.enclustra.com/en/products/base-boards/mars-pm3/
I've put an entry in the NI Idea Exchange for the smaller and cheaper sbRIO based on the Zynq chip: http://forums.ni.com/t5/LabVIEW-FPGA-Idea-Exchange/Smaller-and-cheaper-sbRIO-bas ed-on-Xilinx-Zynq/idi-p/1972597
Please vote if you like the idea!
Consider voting for the following idea on the LV Idea exchange.
I just saw this video where the iOS "Data Dashboard" is presented. Unfortunately, this App only acts as a "Display" (no real interaction with VIs). But also in the video there's Jeff Kodosky one of the NI founders, playing with an iPad and doing some real LabVIEW programming on it. As far as I'm concerned, iPads run on an Apple A6 processor based on ARMv7. Does this mean that in the close future we can expect the programming and deployment of executables on devices running on ARM?
The demo reminds me a little of LabVIEW for Lego Mindstorms.
Not sure if they did this for the demo or not, but I once fooled a few people by running some remote desktop software on my little Nokia N810 and logging into a PC that'd I'd prepped specifically for the purpose. Programming wasn't very easy. But it was possible.
What you saw Jeff Kodowsky playing with was an early version (probably pre-alpha stage) of an entirely different software project that uses the same LabVIEW style graphical symbols but works very differently internally. It is mostly a proof of concept how to get a programming environment like LabVIEW usefully operator friendly on a device which lacks any mouse pointer device, direct keyboard entry and all that kind of stuff like most tablets have now, which almost exclusively can be operated through a touch screen.
One of the features Jeff talks in there is a physics based engine which should help create reasonably layed out diagrams despite the very unprecise operator control through the touch panel. I doubt that the actual LabVIEW engine in there can do much more than a few basic LabVIEW primitives currently. If it ever gets integrated into LabVIEW in such a way that you can create executables for the tablets on other systems like a full LabVIEW development system, is probably still unknown by NI. And if it will resemble a real LabVIEW experience on tablets just as much. It's exciting that they do work on something like that, and it's likely that there might be some offering in the future that is something between Dashboard and real LabVIEW, but I would not hold my breath for it.
IMHO, tablets or smartphones used as remote desktop tools are not a nice solution. This is why i hope there's at least a very basic LabVIEW engine running on that iPad's processor. This would be a huge step on the development of portable embedded solutions implying data acquisition. It would open a new world of portable laboratory/scientific solutions.
One big problem of this which you shouldn't forget: LabVIEW without IO drivers is really more a toy than a useful programming environment. Interfacing to the platform TCP and UDP socket drivers is something fairly easily done. Porting VISA to the iOS or Android platform is likely a very different beast of burdon and in the case of iOS burdoned with additional Apple license issues. Dreaming of DAQmx on either of those platforms is probably going to stay a wet dream forever.