By 2014, the oscilloscope market is expected to reach over $1.5B in size. In 2009, 35% of the oscilloscope market was in “low performance oscilloscopes”.  That in itself is a market worth taking a shot at share of.  And looking to take a shot at it, are companies like Red Pitaya.

In my last post, I discussed how the barrier to entry for hardware+software startups was lowering, as rapid prototyping with Arduino and Raspberry Pi intersected with industrial design within reach through 3D Printing and TechShops.  Back in 1998, I worked for Wolfson Microelectronics.  I was employee number 12 of the then 4 year old startup.  A fabless semiconductor company, this was the most capital un-intensive of hardware companies, yet still the average chip designer had several thousands of dollars of workstation on their desk for design and simulation, and the average test engineer had tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of oscillioscopes, spectrum analyzers, digital signal generators, etc, on their desks.  The cost of entry, from a hardware perspective, was high.

So I’m intrigued by this kickstarter campaign for Red Pitaya.  Themselves a “hardware plus software” startup, they have created a small hardware board that allows them to deliver oscilloscopes, spectrum analysers, waveform generators and more, as software applications that can run on a touch enabled tablet device.  Similarly, other companies in the Apple iTunes Store, such as Oscium, are also delivering mixed signal oscilloscopes, signal generators and spectrum analyzers for iPads, with a combined hardware+software solution.  In both instances, $300 is all it takes to put tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment on the desk of the new wave of lean and agile hardware+software developers.  It’s an incredible opportunity for disruption of the electronics and EDA category, and it’s further evidence that hardware+software is becoming as accessible to lean startups as software has in the last several years.

Later in my career, working for Cadence Design Systems, I worked on products for co-simulation of hardware and software.  I wonder if there may be a marketplace for agility in creating hybrid hardware/software products, with catalogs of devices such as sensors and microcontrollers, that allow the maker movement and lean and agile hardware developers to rapidly build and prototype.  I wonder what the “github of hardware collaboration” will look like, and who will own that lean hardware engineer ecosystem.  I wonder if cloud delivered PCB layout tools will reach the masses, enabling collaborative cloud-based design of hardware products to physical, picked, placed and soldered PCBs.  I wonder if companies like Upverter are on the way to being the next github ?  I wonder if we might even see consolidation as such.

Programming has become an accessible craft for the general population, with the barrier to entry “do you have a browser”.  Might electronics and hardware development be on the same path to democratization ? I suspect so; what do you think?