|Re: Is there any need for just another HP calculator (JAHPC)?|
Message #7 Posted by David Hayden on 27 Jan 2011, 1:54 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Frido Bohn
Here's my take on the subject.
First, you have to think about the market for hand-held calculators. I believe there are three, in order of size:
- Education for 12-22 year-old students (middle school through college in the USA.
- Special-purpose applications like construction trades, oil/gas rigs, and a million other places where you already see hand-held computers. Note that I'd put the financial calculators in this class.
- The general purpose quick calculating device that is its historical use.
All three of these are susceptible to the more general purpose hand-held devices that we're seeing now (Droid/iPhone, iPad/Nook/Kindle, notebook/netbook). The advantage of a calculator is its instant-on ability, long battery life and reduced expense.
Market #1 is a tough nut to crack, at least in the US where TI has it sewn up, especially because the textbooks are geared towards their machines. A cost effective way to break into this market is to produce companion booklets for the popular textbooks that describe how to work the calculator problems with HP models. The user community could be tapped for this.
Market #2 is a little easier. Notice that a lot of effort went here recently with the 20b, 30b and 12C+. In particular, the 20b and 30b are running modern software on a modern CPU and the speed really shows it. There's an SDK for the these machines which I believe is an attempt to support 3rd party re-purposing projects. I don't think this has been very successful so far, mostly due to a lack of available resources on HP's side. Still, I give them credit for trying.
That leaves market #3. It's small and neglected unfortunately. I would love to see something like the 35s, with I/O and the speed of the 30b, but I'm not holding my breath.
On the other hand, I like to imagine that HP is being VERY smart about the path that their taking. Imagine that you're a tiny group within HP with a severely limited budget and big plans for the future. The only way to achieve your plans is to build a revenue stream. How do you do that?
I'd start with the low-hanging fruit. A hardware refresh of the best-selling product I have (and indeed the best selling one in the class) the 12C. Just emulate the old code on a new processor and poof, it runs 100x faster. I'd get this machine out and advertise it. This is exactly what HP did (minus the advertising, which is so conspicuously missing that I feel certain there's some good reason why they couldn't say they had a new product, even though it basically is new).
Once some money comes in from the 12C, I'd make a clear break with the past - dump the Saturn, dump RPL, build a modern machine, write the software in a modern language. Again, the financial calculators are a good candidate for this and poof! Now we have the 20b and 30b - blazing fast.
As the revenue stream grows, it funds longer-term projects. At this point, I'd go for a 50g replacement. Here the software base is so big that I don't think you could rewrite it from scratch. Instead, I'd do a 32-bit RPL engine on the ARM processor and go back to the 48 series code (because I believe it's mostly in RPL, not assembly). The goal would be to drop a calculator on the market that has the same functionality as the TI 89, but is so much faster that people can't ignore it.
The 39gs/40gs are, I suspect, basically the 50g with different user interface glued on. So once I had the RPL engine for the 50g replacement, I'd port the 39gs and 40gs.
Finally, I'd refresh the lower end models, maybe a 35s replacement as I mentioned earlier, probably with crippled versions that would be acceptable to in the standard tests. Call me a heartless capitalist, but my goal would be to make people buy two - the one that the test organizations will allow and the compatible one with the "must have" features like I/O that you can't live without.
Anyway, if I was King of HP, that's what I'd do. If anyone from HP is listening, I'm available for coronation next weekend.... :).