Measurement companies such as National Instruments, of LabView fame, learn to hold a higher-level, system-type view of market needs because of the complexity of their products and the fact that they represent capital expenditures to most customers. National recently announced its assessments of trends in test and measurement requirements that are expected to hold out throughout 2009 (see news below). The trends, especially those related to the increasing use of software-defined measurement equipment, make sense for this industry and for electronics designer engineers and technicians in general given the uncertain economic environment.
Perhaps an "add on" to National's list of trends would include the growing availability and use of electronic test equipment based on the Universal Serial Bus (UWB) interface and relying on a personal computer as the control center, rather than integrating the control with the instrument. While this is somewhat similar to a software-defined instrument, most USB-based measurement tools provide traditional "fixed" functions, such as signal generation or power measurements, rather than the more "fluid" functionality of a true software-defined measurement solution. Of course, one trend that will always be true is the need for improved performance and accuracy in test equipment, at a fair price.