Slashdot posted a story about an embedded HTML renderer being used for creating GUIs for medical devices. The story they point to is written by the marketing director of a company that's trying to sell the technology and, frankly, not all that interesting from a technology standpoint. It made me think, however, that basic Web technology has gotten stable enough and knowledge about it has gotten distributed enough, that including an HTML renderer for GUIs is almost a commodity idea, that it's a no-brainer to make UIs HTML-based, rather than creating a proprietary system. Even just a couple of years ago, the phone industry was trying to introduce WAP, which was a "simplified" version of HTML. Now, there's no need to simplify. From a device creator's perspective, an HTML renderer is nearly as much of a commodity as a clock chip or a serial port.
The effect that this has on device design may not be profound from an innovation standpoint, but from a development standpoint, it could be very big. Once HTML-based GUI rendering becomes as easy as putting a block on a block diagram, it's much easier to include it in engineered objects. It becomes a part of the production process, rather than part of R&D. I can imagine many more things growing rendered UIs because it's cheaper than creating them "in hardware." It's like when plastic backlit signs almost completely replaced neon signs. It not because the technology was any better or prettier, but because they were much cheaper to install, change and maintain.