Tektronix sees beauty in user interfaces
Tektronix president Amir Aghdaei sees consumer mobile device design starting to have an impact on benchtop test instrument design.
“We are expanding our view of the use-model,” Aghdaei told Electronics Weekly.
It is not just in PC-based instruments, Aghdaei sees graphical interfaces being developed for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets having a wider impact on test instrument design.
“There is a use-model for PXI-based instruments and there is another use-model for the integrated instrument on the benchtop,” said Aghdaei, who is equally committed to both instrument formats.
Since the day test firms like Tektronix put a Windows interface in benchtop scopes, it became inevitable that the user interface would become a differentiating element in instrument design.
“We ask ourselves the question ‘do we want to be in the user interface business?’” said Aghdaei.
“If the user wants to bring their own tablet display to the test set-up, so why not let them,” said Aghdaei.
“This is not the modular test business, it is a change to the use-model,” said Aghdaei. “We call it dis-aggregation.”
“There is no single answer,” said Aghdaei.
He sees three macro-trends which are shaping the test market. First of these is mobile technologies. “Almost all our customers need RF and microwave test capabilities,” said Aghdaei.
The second macro-trend is power conscious design, and Aghdaei singles this out as an important opportunity for Tektronix, which launched its first power analyser instrument last year.
Supporting this move, Tektronix has implemented a technology transfer agreement which includes power analyser intellectual property, patents and product designs from its partner Voltech.
“This is an aggressive move into growing market segment in test and measurement,” said Aghdaei.
Oscilloscopes can be used for basic power analysis but more accurate measurements require dedicated power analysers.
Power measurement is particularly important in the development of solar photovoltaic and wind energy systems.
The third macro-trend is the definition of hardware applications through software. “It is the applications which drive products,” said Aghdaei.
This is moving Tektronix into the areas of software test and embedded test. “These are big challenges for the industry; integrated hardware and software test, and building test capabilities into the product itself,” said Aghdaei.
The key test capabilities are still the high speed data converters, acquisition circuits and probes.
“We build on standard platforms which can be scaled up and down and which can be used in different formats,” said Aghdaei.
For example, the 4GHz oscilloscope was high-end not so long ago and is now a standard mid-range scope.
“And all with a common user interface, that’s the key,” said Aghdaei.
“The company took bold decisions in 2009/10, 10s of millions of dollars was invested in custom-Asics for the platform,” said Aghdaei. “This is not an industry for the faint of heart. We must have long term horizons.”