embedded software boot camp

Improvements versus Features

Thursday, August 7th, 2008 by Nigel Jones

I’m taking a slight detour from my usual topics to blather about what I see as an unfortunate trend that is making its way from the PC world to the embedded world. My perception is that as more embedded systems get sophisticated user interfaces, the desire to add features seems inescapable. While I don’t see adding features as bad, per se, doing so instead of improving the product is a bad thing. What do I mean by improving the product? Well, typically those things that most users don’t understand, for example noise floors, power consumption, SNR, software reliability and so on.

In the days before user interfaces, pretty much the only way to improve a product was to work on the “invisible” parameters. Today, it’s often far easier to add a new feature than it is to labor at, for example, wringing a few more db of performance out of that digital filter while keeping the number of clock cycles unchanged.

Am I tilting at windmills? I don’t think so. Is my plea pointless – probably. However the next time someone comes along asking for a YANF (Yet Another New Feature), do them and you a favor and ask how time spent on the YANF compares to time spent on improving the product.


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