Should your Commercial LabVIEW Application be Cross-Platform?

Posted on Wednesday 29 August 2007

One of the great things about LabVIEW is that it supports several platforms. However, being cross-platform is not always trivial, especially if your application is a stand-alone executable (as opposed to a reuse library distributed in source code form).


In order to decide whether you should be cross-platform compatible, first consider whether you need to. For example:

  • Does your application depend heavily on platform specific components that cannot be found on other platforms or implemented in pure G (LabVIEW)?
  • Is it targeted at functions that only exist on a single platform (for example, a tool for creating Excel reports)?
  • Is there a market (paying customers) for your application on each of the platforms?

I’d like to throw in some useful data. JKI’s market research for VI Package Manager (VIPM) indicates that:

  • Windows has 98% of the market share of LabVIEW installations,
  • Mac has 1.1%, and
  • Linux has 1.0%.

With numbers like that, it might not make direct business sense to support those platforms. However, there is a lot to be said for having cross-platform support. For example:

  • It makes it easier to migrate to new platforms that might show up in the future (including new versions of Windows, such as Vista).
  • It is a good exercise and you learn more about cross-platform considerations.
  • It may uncover bugs by exposing your application to new operating environments.

Another reason that that we’ve chosen to support Mac and Linux on VIPM is that it is a tool for obtaining and installing the OpenG (open source) VI reuse libraries. JKI is very passionate about the LabVIEW community and we want Mac and Linux users to be able to use OpenG, too. Some of the most passionate LabVIEW users are using LabVIEW on platforms other than Windows.

In order to make this decision for your commercial software product, you’ll have to weigh all the factors and decide whether it makes sense for you. In my opinion, the benefits of being cross-platform may not be immediately tangible, but it does pay off in the long run.

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