During lunch recently in one of New York City's better seafood restaurants, the Oyster Bar, with several engineering-minded friends, the conversation inevitably shifted to the place of RF technology in the world. Surrounded by diners with cell phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), and some with notebook computers connected to the Internet by wireless local area network (WLAN), our discussion was vividly illustrated by these "real-life" examples of our reliance on wireless technology to "stay connected."

Of course, that strong dependence translates into extremely competitive markets for new wireless devices, such as cell phones and personal navigation devices (PNDs), and a greater emphasis on RF/microwave companies to deliver their component solutions quickly so that their customers can achieve faster time to market with their consumer-level products. The reference design has long been one way for RF/microwave and wireless companies to simplify the "translation" of their products to their customers. But in the increasingly competitive wireless marketplace, traditional reference designs are not enough, and successful RF/microwave companies are learning that they almost have to teach their customers how to design what they are selling them, so that their customers can speed their own products to market.

This week's newsletter features several examples of companies working with their customers to achieve faster time to market. Certainly, that educational process will become at least as important as the performance of the product they are selling in the years to come.