Invisible Engines Econ 104

Invisible Engines Econ 104 - 1 Invisible Engines But what...

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Unformatted text preview: 1 Invisible Engines But what . . . is it good for? — Anonymous engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip. 1 INSIDE THIS CHAPTER • The definition and history of software platforms • The businesses powered by software platforms • The basic economics of software platforms • The plan of the book Many modern products run on software platforms. Car engines and nav- igation systems have one, as do jumbo jets and the handheld devices we use for emailing and organizing ourselves. Video game consoles from Atari to Xbox are based on them. French debit cards have included them for years; these “smart cards” may eventually replace the magnetic stripe cards that are standard in the United States. Sophisticated mobile tele- phone services such as i-mode in Japan are based on software platforms. Personal music devices are as well. And, of course, all sorts of business and home computers also have them. Software platforms are based on computer code. The code tells the microprocessors and other hardware components what to do. It is what 1. Caryn Yacowitz, Vittorio Zaccaria, Mariagiovanna Sami, Cristina Silvano, and Donatella Sciuto, Power Estimation and Optimization Methodologies for Vliw-Based Embedded Systems (Norwell, Mass.: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003). makes your computer do calculations, or your personal music device play songs. And it provides services to applications, such as accessing the hardware or providing features that many applications would otherwise have to include themselves. It is what makes handwriting recognition possible on personal digital devices and enables your employer’s human resources software to work on the company’s computer system. Yet these remarkable software engines are invisible to most of us. Their creators write them in a language that looks almost human. They then use other code to translate what they have written into machine lan- guage—combinations of 0s and 1s that microprocessors understand. Those digital data are then transferred to the physical memory or storage in the device itself. Some software platforms are famous. Linux, the Mac OS, and Windows are household names. You cannot really see or touch these products, but at least you can buy a CD and a hefty manual. Others are known to many business users: z/OS, Solaris, and Unix, for instance. Many are known only to a few, such as Symbian for mobile phones or GeoWorks for handheld devices. Others, including the software plat- forms that are the real brains behind devices such as the Sony PlaySta- tion or Tivo’s digital video recorder, are truly anonymous. Software platforms have generated great wealth. Windows has pro- vided about 40 percent of Microsoft’s revenues in the last decade....
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This note was uploaded on 06/30/2009 for the course ECON 104 taught by Professor Forbes during the Spring '09 term at UCSD.

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Invisible Engines Econ 104 - 1 Invisible Engines But what...

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