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Embedded Systems Conference Spring Day 2 - editorial

Embedded Systems Conference Spring
McCormick Place South, Chicago IL
Microcontroller.com Special Report

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Day Two and my feet hurt but I'm in no rush since the crowd has thinned somewhat today.

Besides noticing who's here, I begin to notice who's not here. National Semiconductor is noticeably absent. AnchorChips, who makes an 8051 with USB on board, is also missing. IBM Microelectronics also passed on this week's ESC. Word was many of those absent, like ByteCraft, were at the European version of ESC this week in Germany.

It's too bad, because Embedded Systems isn't only for the attendees. The exhibitors benefit greatly by mingling with their peers and their partners. The microcontroller development tools business can be a difficult business to grasp. Customer preferences and trends are difficult to track and even harder to predict. ESC is an opportunity for tools vendors to compare notes and swap stories, while finding non-competitive ways to help each other. CodeWright, for example, took advantage of the conference to partner with various tool vendors to have their IDE packaged with other tools. Compiler and emulator vendors got together to discuss similar packaging deals.

News from the aisles: emulator sales are down, compiler sales remain steady. RTOS sales are improving as software engineers begin listening to their message. Engineers continue looking for new ways to meet their manager's unrealistic time-to-market expectations, so they are constantly searching for better and faster ways to design their systems and write their code.

Applied Microsystems PresentationApplied Microsystems, as usual, gave one of the more informative presentations (see picture on right) with straightforward information on their tools and their company (I always make it a point to attend one of their presentations). This leads me to believe that part of the reason of Applied Microsystems' success is their ability to communicate clearly to engineers. Anyway, Applied Microsystems' presentation demonstrated that they understand the concerns and priorities of their customers (they do this by - get this - they talk to their customers. What a radical concept; I wish some other companies would start to do that).

ST-Microelectronics has introduced new microcontrollers on their ST7 and ST9 that have peripherals specific to motor control - AC induction motors, DC motors, stepper motors. ST has strong power analog capabilities; now that their microcontroller organization is under their Dedicated Products Group, known for their successful application-specific analog devices, ST's microcontrollers have seen increased levels of on-chip peripheral integration.

On the lighter side - Integrated Chipware, manufacturer of IC Workshop, had a magic show and two young women that danced to a good pounding beat (I took some pictures which unfortunately didn't come out). The show was suprisingly professional; as a matter of fact, the attractive and talented performers were actual employees of Integrated Chipware. The company has segmented the RTOS market into application specific versions for Telecom, Automotive, handheld devices, etc. with a focused business model.

Artisan Software demo'ed a powerful object oriented multi-user tool suite that allows a development team to define, develop, design, and document their entire real-time system using a top-down approach. Unlike other tools of this nature this one actually seems intuitive to use, while allowing the engineer to select from a wide variety of powerful options. Caine O'Brien, Artisan's VP of Marketing, gave me a clear understanding of his product and gave me a convincing demo of the tool suite.

Nohau Emulator StationNohau, a popular manufacturer of in-circuit emulators, had a large booth full of emulators, emulators, emualtors (in case you'd forgotten what they make...). Basically, you had a chance to sit (O.K., you had to stand) and try out your favorite emulator (see picture to the left).

Green Hills Software was among those with a wide-screen demo of their tools. Green Hills makes compilers for various languages - C, C++, EC++, ESTLC++, Ada. One of the useful tools demo'ed, CodeBalance, analyzes and profiles your code and performs size optimizations on the code that is least used, achieving a user-specified balance of code size reduction verses execution time guarantee. Green Hills claims to be the "World's Largest Embedded Development Tools Company". They have recently integrated their MULTI development environment with Enea's OSE RTOS, and also announced support for Atmel's low-cost ARM7/TDMI evaluation board.


-Bill Giovino


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