Thursday, December 2, 2010

Software and hardware innovations: Which drives which?

I won't pretend to be an expert on IT. I do have a Certificate in Web Technologies from NIIT (now Phoenix One), but all that -- including everything I learned in Business Administration and even in my nearly four years of working -- have somehow gotten buried in the recesses of my memory. After having given birth via caesarean section, and after having read thousands of cases, I'd like to think I have a reason, although that is, admittedly, not an excuse. Especially since I teach (I always claim "facilitate" would be a better word, considering what I have actually been doing) IT in Business.

But I will attempt to engage myself in some form of IT-economics discussion (of the chicken-or-egg sort) right off the top of my head, the issue being: between software innovations and hardware innovations, which drives which?

I propounded this question to my students last Wednesday, purposely seeking to avoid having to discuss the nitty-gritty geeky definitions of system v. application software, input/output devices, etc., etc., etc. After all, I think I'm not misguided in assuming that most of my students are more interested in pursuing careers in marketing, advertising, general management, finance, economics, and other related fields that directly offshoot from a BS Business Economics course, rather than on becoming computer programmers or IT specialists. And if they want to join Accenture (a handful of BS BA and BS BE graduates from UP actually become programmers), I'm sure they'll get the training they'll need from that company. I'm aware I'm trying to pad my shortcomings here, so I'm going back to the issue.

Anyway, one of my students said it would be hardware innovations driving software innovations, reasoning (at least this is how I understand what she said) that software functions are necessarily limited by hardware capabilities. Another student said that it's a two-way thing (he was sitting at the back of the classroom so I didn't hear much of what he said, but he did look quite confident about what he was saying, so I gave him what I think is "due" for his class participation that day).

I don't know if I'm being unfair (because my answer doesn't exactly answer the question) or if I just wanted to play it smart and give a different answer by asking a question in a way that wouldn't be answered the way that I eventually answered it, to wit:

Software needs drive both software and hardware innovations. Ultimately, we need computers (by computers I'm referring to the full range --- desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets, etc.) for what they're supposed to do for us. And so we seek more innovations in functions, which demand improvements in software, which in turn demand improvements in hardware. Could it be otherwise? Well, sure we want better hardware. We obviously want them to get smaller and smaller, and faster and faster. But that's another thing altogether. That argument points to hardware needs per se, and has nothing to do with software. If software gets better because of hardware innovations, it wouldn't be because hardware drives software. Rather it would be that hardware incidentally makes it possible for software to actually get better, something that people also want along with better hardware.

I don't know if I actually made sense. But my students kept nodding their heads as though I did, or maybe because they thought I'd appreciate it. Because of that response, I decided to blog about this with you, my peers and my professors, who are not in anyway bound by some form of "convention" to nod your heads in agreement to what your peer or student says. Please, feel free to comment and criticize me. That's certainly something I'd appreciate. :)
Salma F. Angkaya
Entry #3

1 comment:

Patty Miranda said...

Certificate in Web Technologies from NIIT -- whuut! whoaaa! :)