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Copyright Ó 2001 Microcontroller.com. All Rights Reserved.
March 2001
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is not a sterile classroom engineering exercise, and that impressive datasheet you hold
in your hands might have a C compiler that doesn't with the only available in-circuit
emulator - and both only work with a previous version of silicon!
The Funny Things that Happen at Semiconductor Companies
Semiconductor companies are developing microcontrollers with hardware multipliers,
barrel shifters, and Harvard architectures. DSPs are being developed with external
interrupts, integrated peripherals, and register-based architectures. In reality,
semiconductor companies are developing these devices for one of two reasons:
1.
New market focus on systems that need signal processing & real-time control
2.
It seems like a good idea - "If we build it, they will come"
In order to understand today's market situation it is important to understand how we got
here.
Semiconductor companies deal with two types of markets: distribution (large number of
customers, high effort to manage, low-to-medium fluctuating volumes) and direct
customers (small group of customers, manageable in scope, high and predictable
volumes). During the growth of embedded cores in the 1980's the microcontroller
explosion was fueled greatly by the Automotive marketplace, as devices developed for
Automotive applications migrated into distribution. This is what helped make Motorola
SPS the number one supplier of 8-bit microcontrollers today. Most serious players in the
microcontroller market either developed product for Automotive, went after niche
markets, or gambled with emerging markets (Microchip is a notable exception with their
successful broad market appeal). DSPs were developed for the telecommunications
and military markets, and for the most part remained there.
The late 1990's had seen opportunities for growth in the semiconductor industry that
has been unprecedented in the industry’s short history. The explosive growth in
personal computing, telecommunications, internet technologies, telephony, and
portable applications have sent many semiconductor companies scrambling to
come out with products that can be used in these new, highly profitable
segments. These segments are controlled by a growing group of established, and a
few new, direct customers.
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