A Hardware Renaissance In Silicon Valley

Nick Bilton and John Markoff | New York Times | August 25, 2012

In recent years, Silicon Valley seems to have forgotten about silicon. It’s been about dot-coms, Web advertising, social networking and apps for smartphones. But there are signs here that hardware is becoming the new software.

It is an expansion of a trend that began a few years ago with the Flip videophone, a sleeper hit, and has recently accelerated with Nest, the smart thermostat; Lytro, a camera that refocuses a photo after it is taken; and the Pebble smartwatch, a wristwatch that can interact with a smartphone. Although the hardware is not manufactured in Silicon Valley, it is being conceived, designed, prototyped and financed here, usually by small start-ups.

What has changed? Each of those steps is speeding up, which cuts the costs and lowers the risks of developing new things. It’s not that software is any less important in Silicon Valley. One reason for the rise of hardware is that it is now so tightly integrated with software. Apple has taught a generation of product designers that an electronic device isn’t much without specially designed software that makes it a joy to use...