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LabVIEW as one of the Top 20 software development environments

This idea was prompted by an email to a work colleague on how to generally improve LabVIEW. I liked it so much that I’m presenting it as an idea. Please keep in mind that it is worded with an individual audience and may have been tamed down had I written it for this exchange. I hope you like it. It’s a holistic approach to what I think will take LabVIEW from where it is today to where it could be in a year or so. Hopefully the LabVIEW community thinks likewise.

 

If NI want to improve LabVIEW, here’s what I see needs to be done:

 

1) Reduce the price of LabVIEW Professional to $1500 (and get rid of LabVIEW Base – why teach poor programming practices)

 

2) Allow a standard web browser to be the user interface (without any plug-ins!)

 

3) Fold in some of the general purpose toolkits into the main product (best way to add new features!, but I can live without this)

 

4) Sell single board cRIO in quantities of one (at a reasonable price). And show the price on the NI website.

 

5) Reduce the price of LabVIEW RT, FPGA and embedded.

 

6) Offer more deployment platforms (RT, FPGA and embedded) – this is where NI will make money, by selling more hardware.

 

7) Offer general-purpose low-cost mini-board (a few digital and analog I/O and a controller). Think 32-bit Arduino-like. In fact, why not make it compatible with the Arduino shields (stackable plug in boards that add functionality).

 

8) Improve the robustness of LabVIEW (in preference to new features).

 

9) More tutorials, examples and learning documentation (helps users, reduces support costs and opens the door to cheaper LabVIEW).

 

10) Increase the user base by a factor of 4 (needed to get to “critical mass” for user community).

 

11) Have the same feature set across Windows, Macintosh and Unix (or at least reduce the gap).

 

12) Publish a textbook for experienced LabVIEW programmers that want to move step-by-step to object oriented LabVIEW programming (assuming this is the way to go, haven’t used it myself so not sure how useful it is).

 

13) Add features to make it a more general purpose programming language (to challenge C, C++ and C#). Don’t take it too far, we don’t need LabVIEW to write word processors and database programs, but we would like to write home automation software (my next hobby project), general purpose utilities and more commercial software to go with our products (as opposed to our current usage of just in-house software).

 

14) Improve controls and indicators to allow the same look-and-feel as “professional” programmes. Want to create an awful user interface? Just add a Toggle Switch! There done! (Can you imagine any commercial software written in any other language that would go out of their way to add a Toggle Switch looking control? Can you even begin to imagine this in, say, Windows?). Anyway, more controls and indicators that look like those of general purpose applications and a built-in powerful easy-to-use control and indicator editor.

 

That should do it for LabVIEW 2012. I’ve got more to take LabVIEW to the Top 20 programming languages.

 

LabVIEW should be able to get into the Top 20 programming languages, if NI gets a move on. This is due to its lead with intrinsic multiprocessor programming and deployment across platforms ranging from mini-board (not yet available, see point 7), Lego NXT, LabVIEW embedded for 32-bit microcomputers, FPGA based systems (eg. Compact RIO) and desktop PCs (Windows, Macintosh and Unix). The entire programming spectrum covered – who else can do this today! However, it’s important for NI to get moving and exploit this lead before others do it.

24 Comments
Active Participant

The idea presented here is to increase sales. A larger user base means more LabVIEW books, more work colleagues using it, more uses for LabVIEW, more job opportunities, etc. That's the idea I'm presenting. The 14 items listed are some suggestions on how to achieve this.

Knight of NI Knight of NI
Knight of NI

> I guess a vote for this idea is, do you think it's a good idea to increase the LabVIEW user base?

 

 

Since you ask, I'm not sure that the answer to that question should be yes. Sure, I would love to see a lot more people using LV, I would love to see it develop faster and become cheaper and better for more general applications and I would love to see a sustainable eco-system, but the LV development process and the developer community currently has a dynamic which, while far from what I would consider ideal, works. If you considerably increase LV's popularity, that dynamic will change, in some ways for the better, in some for the worse, and I'm not sure that the overall balance would tip in our favor.

 

For example, if LV became highly popular, companies like Microsoft might start competing with it directly (in a sense MS already does, with VPL), which might considerably hurt it. Many users would probably mean many feature requests, which would kind-of clash with your idea of improving robustness over implementing new features. And so on.


___________________
Try to take over the world!
Active Participant

Thank you tst for seeing the thrust of this idea. Many users would be more feature requests which would be a good. Fulfilling those requests would be even better, but having a lot of requests and limited resources to work on them is still better than few requests and limited resources to work on them.

 

When I look at the low number of recent LabVIEW books, how little of my technical colleagues use LabVIEW, how unpopular LabVIEW is and how few third-party suppliers exist, I wish it was different. Maybe more users would be a bad thing for LabVIEW, however I feel it would be a good thing. 

 

I'd love to see a company compete with LabVIEW. Competition is the greatest driver to improvements. Apple and Microsoft have pushed each other to innovate in operating systems (and they've both done well). The US only seriously got into the space race when Russia launched sputnik, the list goes on.

 

Imagine a world in which LabVIEW was popular, wouldn't that be great?

Member

@tst  In my opinion, LV will not be hurt by competion.  That's actually what it needs.  With two of the major patents having expired, it is only a matter of time before a serious competitor emerges. Competition is a good thing, and very healthy for this industry.

Knight of NI

From my perspective, LabVIEW is already hugely successful locally. It's taught and used at the major universities, used by high school and elementary schools participating in the First Robotics competition, and hundreds of major corporations and government organizations. There are dozens of LabVIEW programmers at my current client and the same was true at my last two previous employers. The biggest benefit has been to keep me gainfully employed.Smiley Very Happy

 

Competition does exist. VEE from Agilent is also a graphical programming environment from a much larger corporation than NI.

 

Again, I would like the focus to be on actual ideas and not sales figures.

 

P.S. Aren't books passe?Smiley Wink

Active Participant

Dennis, you are lucky. You have dozens of LabVIEW programmers to interact with, exchange ideas and co-develop your skills. I have one.

 

I like books. I find them the preferred method of learning. Not many (recent) LabVIEW books out there. Also, I really liked the LabVIEW Technical Resource (LTR) magazine that has long since disappeared (it ran from 1993 to 2006). This was a great publication and I looked forward to each edition. I learnt a lot and found the reading enjoyable. Alas, this is all gone (and no on-line equivalent). A larger LabVIEW community would have helped sustain LTR. Who knows, with a large enough LabVIEW developer community, LTR may reappear!

 

In the end, if as part of the LabVIEW developer community you would like to see LABVIEW more extensively used for developing software you should give this idea kudos. If however, you think that the current installed base of LabVIEW development environments is optimal... I don't know what to say.

 

To me the single best idea to improve LabVIEW is to increase the developer base. Case in point, LabVIEW 2 style global variables - this idea came from a user to get around a limitation in LabVIEW a long time ago. It is still used today and became the start of action engines. Great ideas from the LabVIEW developer community. More developers = more great ideas. I'd like a larger developer community, with all the benefits it brings.

Active Participant

Interesting observation: Of the 13535 ideas in the NI Ideas Exchange, 12309 are for LabVIEW. That is, of all the listed NI products 91% of interest is with LabVIEW! Goes to show how important LabVIEW is to NI and those of us who use/depend on it for our career.

Knight of NI

What killed LTR was the online community. Between the forums, NI Developer Zone, and LAVA, there is more content published about LabVIEW in a single day than LTR could publish in a quarter. They simply could not compete.

 

You registered for the forum in 2005 but did not post a thing until recently. You had the oppurtunity to interact with many thousands of developers. Why did you not take advantage of it?

 

I never said that I am content with the size of the existing community. What I said was the way to do that was by improving it with specific ideas. Simply saying 'increase the sales' is not an idea.

Active Participant

So, what idea do you propose to increase the size of the existing community?

Knight of NI

The ideas I have given kudos to.