Forecast 2010: What Is in Store for Embedded Developers

Taking a “dog’s-eye” view of what we might expect in 2010

Light at end of tunnel



 The year 2010 is just around the corner, and we are doing what we do best — forecasting. After all it’s our name. But we aren’t just guessing — we base our forecasts on historical facts and data. For the past 12 years, we have been tracking what developers are doing, what tools, OSes and processes they are utilizing and what their design experiences have been. We also report on what issues trouble them the most.

Now we are preparing our 2010 detailed and comprehensive EMF Executive Survey of Embedded Developers and Managers. We will be inviting you to take the survey to see how you our “loyal readers” compare with the larger statistically based responses (please contact us at if you are willing to participate). Respondents who take the survey will receive a complimentary copy of our survey overview (a $399 value).

With our unique Executive Dashboard tool we are able to crosstab and simultaneously compare (for tools, programming languages, processors used in designs, etc.) “time to market” as well as “percentages of developments completed ahead of schedule/behind schedule/and cancelled”. We also know how close to pre-design expectations developer’s final design results compared.

We do this analysis for OSes (commercial and roll your own), IDEs, modeling tools, communication middleware, static analysis tools, requirements management/change management/validation tools, etc. The Dashboard allows vendors to compare the use of their products to those of their competitor’s – and it permits developer/managers to make design decisions predicated on the experiences of fellow developers.

Every year we speak with users and vendors to get their take on what they are expecting, and every year the survey results frequently surprise us – one and all.

Mark Twain wrote, “it’s not what you don’t know that can come back to bite you; it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true”. So we are not only challenging ourselves – but all who care to offer what they “know for sure” to speculate along with us.

Let’s first look at embedded markets – which ones we predict grow and which will suffer.



The medical device marketplace has been growing at a double digit rate – and new considerations should enhance opportunities for embedded vendors in 2010 – IF they take the time to correctly understand the selling points

  • Considerable attention has been given to the medical marketplace by vendors seeking a safe haven from the expected decline in mil/aero. EMF believes that many such vendors don’t understand the market segment, how to sell to it, or what the users need and will purchase
  • It would be funny if it wasn’t sad that certain leading RTOS vendors are pushing their certified high power, mission critical OSes towards an industry that develops products whose defining frequency requirements are less than 100 Hz

A Senate Bill cosponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D – MA) and Chuck Grassley (R– IA) was filed (Drug and Medical Device Accountability Act of 2009) that  would require senior officers or directors of drug and medical device companies to certify under penalty of perjury that all information submitted for a product’s approval is accurate and in compliance with federal regulations. Product applications later found to have contained false or misleading information would be subject to stiff fines (up to $5,000,000), assessed both to companies and their senior officers, who, in addition, could face jail sentences of up to 20 years.

EMF will soon publish a report presenting alternative paths for developers to produce quality software for medical devices, minimize product recalls, and affordably provide comprehensive audit trails for CDRH inspectors. EMF has identified 15 major best practices points which medical device developers can follow to align them with CDRH (Center for Devices and Radiological Health – FDA) suggestions. 

Consumer Devices and Products

There are three segments of the consumer electronics marketplace that are experiencing significant growth. Moreover with “smart devices” that will interact with IT based data reservoirs, the future for embedded technologies will involve this segment. EMF expects this market segment to grow the fastest and achieve large revenues. 

The three are:

  • Consumer electronics including cell technologies and gaming devices
  • Home entertainment
  • Hand held devices

Industrial Automation (IA) 

IA is highly fragmented yet growing in many segments. Industrial automation, industrial controls, robotic factories, and automated assembly/manufacturing have huge security needs, testing requirements and process controls.

IA has grown to be the largest among the emerging embedded market segments.



  • Verizon’s rural assets following their acquisition of Alltel and the required divestiture have been bought by smaller rural service providers who are under no pressure to offer advanced services or do any network build-out. This means that less network equipment will be purchased. Of the larger service providers, both Sprint-Nextel and Qwest continue to show weakness and financial difficulty. These circumstances will have a dampening effect on telecom opportunities
  • Wireless subscription growth has diminished as the market nears saturation. Approximately 89% of teenage and adult Americans have at least one cell phone. Wireless service providers have limited options and have found that customers are not likely to pay for new data services
  • China is restructuring and consolidating their telecom services from six providers to three full service carriers. They are trying to break the monopoly that China Mobile has had
  • Fewer buyers make the segment more competitive and harder to get design wins. This filters down to embedded vendors that supply the communications OEMs and systems integrators


  • The Aerospace and Defense Industries of the United States are poised to undergo one of the most significant changes since the end of the Cold War; perhaps the most significant since World War II. We believe that observers (embedded vendors included) who expect small changes are mistaken, thereby fostering a false and dangerous sense of security across much of the industry and government
  • The impact to our economy goes far beyond our current financial problems and involves fundamental structural changes taking place in the industry and in the market. As in prior shifts of this nature, there will be winners and losers – however these shifts may be profound, creating more dramatic winners and losers than in the last cycle
  • That the DoD will experience an 18% to 40% reduction in discretionary funding is a certainty. Such luminaries as Ken Krieg, former Deputy Secretary for Defense Acquisition, and Booze & Company have affirmed this to be the case. The ripple down effect from Tier I primes to Tier III embedded suppliers will be severe
  • According to the Congressional Budget Office, the share of the US gross domestic product (GDP) allocated to defense spending declined from 5.6% in the 80’s to 3.8% in the 90’s and 3.1% in the new millennium. This is expected to become worse in the ensuing few years 


The government bail out of GM and Chrysler and the attendant end-of-life for many auto brands has been devastating to this market segment. Moreover, the efforts of the current administration to engineer the government takeover of these industries by imposing requirements created by inexperienced bureaucrats is setting back technological innovation and the acquisition of embedded technologies for many years to come

What we learned in 2009 and what we might expect in 2010 

Operating systems 

2009 saw the continued use of embedded OSes as ThreadX, Nucleus and Micrium. ThreadX continued (for the 4th consecutive year) to show the best time to market and percent of designs competed on or ahead of schedule for a commercial OS while MontaVista Linux had the best ROI for a commercial Linux product. All commercial Linux products outperformed free Linux offerings. 

It became abundantly clear that the smaller OSes have a significant role to play – and are preferable to the high power OSes for many applications. Linux has become pervasive across many embedded verticals. 

It will be interesting to see what the 2010 EMF Embedded Developer Survey will teach us. 


That we are heading into a multicore world is a certainty – we expect the 2010 survey to show this trend. What multicore needs is better development and testing tools than what is currently available. FPGA use and FPGA technologies have advanced to the point that they are becoming preferred over DSPs and commercial chips for many applications. Long term programs that are commonly found in military systems deployments have a vested interest in processor availability. FPGA vendors won’t play the end-of-life game that the larger processor companies play. Xilinx continues (consistent with the preceding 5 years) their lead over Altera for embedded use.

In 2010 EMF added a list of multicore processors to examine which are preferred. It will be interesting to see if ARM continues to gain ground over Intel’s Atom.

Modeling Tools 

Simulation-modeling tools have enjoyed the greatest growth of any embedded tools. We expect to see this trend continue. EMF has posted for free download several papers showing the advantages of using model driven development (MDD).   

Rhapsody, now an IBM Rational tool, continues to find applications for complex designs. MDD is the only technology for effectively dealing with systems and systems-within-systems developments and maintenance. 

Other Embedded Offerings

The embedded industry has long had frugality – or the notion of a free lunch – as a strategic initiative. The fallacy herein is that the “total cost of ownership” has been ignored at the altar of acquisition costs. 

Principal among this aspect of the embedded marketplace is that of embedded communications middleware. The use of roll your own (RYO) middleware consumes more than 50% of the marketplace – notwithstanding the lack of scalability, the large cost of managing and supporting deployed systems, and the unnecessary complexity of such systems.

It will be interesting to see if RTI again is shown to have the best design outcomes and if RTI and OIS continue to outperform RYO communication middleware developments. 

It will be interesting to see whether the use of requirements management, change management and static analysis tools become more prevalent in embedded development. 

Finally, we will see which development and management practices produce the best design outcomes; which interconnect technologies are used; which programming languages are used; and which tools are purchased and used and which have been purchase but NOT used.

4 Responses to “Forecast 2010: What Is in Store for Embedded Developers”

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