State machine functions and recursive composition

My graduate school research was motivated by a difficulty we have doing real creative engineering in operating systems that may seem ridiculous to people who don’t work in the field. The problem is that we can’t describe the problem. What an operating system does is complicated beyond the expressive capability of the mathematics we have at hand so we end up with vague gesturing, making applications work, and commitments to support existing APIs which are themselves mostly defined by what existing implementations do.  One result is that there are embarrassing errors in nearly every commercial OS. Another result is that OS development has stagnated. Compare to databases where at least the relational algebra idea has allowed researchers to think about what the damn thing is supposed to do at some reasonable level of abstraction.  Formal methods research has produced nearly nothing of use to engineers – the only useful parts have been the automated validation programs and those have advanced mostly because of the increasing power of the machines used to run the validation algorithms. All this by way of introducing another attempt to clarify the primitive recursive basis of compositional state machine theory.

Download here. (updated to improve fonts!)

Applications paper on the unfortunately acronymed Proportional Integral Derivative controllers on the way.

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Wind River sold to Intel: more reaction

And like Intel, I would argue that mobile software companies are instrumental in making silicon solutions pervasive, because they tick two major check boxes: reference design and support.

The hidden asset of mobile software companies
Mobile embedded software companies (e.g. Myriad, Access, Aplix, NXP software, Azingo) have a unique understanding of products as a hardware/software system. They understand how silicon can be leveraged, encapsulated and productised to fast-track device delivery. Beyond specific IP, these companies have the capability to build the very first product that will feature a new chipset. This is the reference design check box.

A reference design is not a half-baked breadboard; it is a scale 1:1 device, ready to ship.

The absence of such capability has drained Texas Instrument, once the mobile silicon leader. Alternatively, true reference design has been instrumental in the success of Qualcomm and Mediatek.(cite)

Also see previous note

unnovation

This is a brilliant idea.

Most innovation, well, isn’t: it is “unnovation,” or innovation that fails to create authentic, meaningful value. The biggest stumbling block to innovation is unnovation: most companies are too busy unnovating to ever learn how to truly innovate.

In the race to innovate, most organizations forget a simple but fundamental economic truth. A new process, product, service, business design, or strategy can only be described as an innovation if it results in (or is the result of) authentic, durable economic gains.

Unfortunately, much of what our economy produces today isn’t innovative — it’s unnovative. The evidence is hard to dispute: we merely need to note how deep the global decline is, how consistently 20th Century business fails to do stuff that matters — or just how many industries are caught simultaneously in deep crisis.

Here are some examples of unnovation.

The Hummer was a product unnovation, which destroyed value for both society and Detroit.

CDOs were a financial unnovation, that crippled the financial system, and have cost everyone hundreds of billions.

Integrating into auto finance was a business design unnovation for Detroit — one which diluted and sapped the incentives to make authentically innovative cars.

In our field, innovation requires investment and time. But “unnovation”! That’s a different story.

Wind River purchased by Intel

If anything, Wind River’s inability to breakout, despite a once Microsoft-like position of dominance, is a by-product of their failure to meaningfully go “up the stack” and away from their historical focus on the silicon layer as a primary differentiation point.

In other words, if Wind River had enabled the next generation of Cisco and Apple killers by providing more differentiated OEM-in-a-Box offerings, ala what Google is now trying to do with Android, they would not be staring at a $900M market cap and relatively flat revenues, margins and stock price.

Well, that’s an argument. Embedded is a tough beat, but Wind did not exactly set the world on fire developing new concepts and software. Intel’s history in software is not glorious either – so it’s going to be an interesting challenge for the new entity.