2010 Embedded Systems Conference – Silicon Valley (ESC)

Fearless and no longer loathing in San Jose (with apologies to the late Hunter Thompson)



Dolores and I made our annual trip to the Left Coast to attend the annual Embedded Systems Conference last week. It was the best ESC West in many years – more booths; larger booths; good floor traffic; interesting announcements and new to embedded players.


I’m not sure how Rich Nass does it – but the keynote speaker was again excellent. This time Michio Kaku, the co-founder of string theory and TV science presenter was the speaker and was charming, funny (but Seinfeld can breathe easy), informative and delightful. We joined the mass exodus to avoid the obligatory hour dedicated for the Microsoft Embedded Group (aka MS Purgatory – otherwise known as We B Arrogant). Granted that Microsoft contributes a lot of $$ to these very important events – for which I am grateful – but give me a friggin break MS, Windows 7 is not the promised land for the embedded world.


This was the year that the chip companies made confessions of love to many OS companies. Freescale made announcements with such stalwarts as Green Hills, while Intel teamed with LynuxWorks for an ill chosen medical product. ARM was very impressive as was Microchip, while Xilinx ran away with the FPGA application announcements. Xilinx for the 7th consecutive year (by EMF survey data) was the most used FPGA in the embedded space (and had the best ROI).


Green Hills also made a networking arrangement with Cavium (who recently acquired MontaVista and MV Linux) which caused us to ask if Dan O’Dowd (who has publicly claimed that anyone who used Linux was brain dead – or worse) had to be drugged or restrained to cut a deal with a Linux company. We checked the stock market for Prozac manufacturers to see if consumption was up in Santa Barbara. All chuckles aside – it was an excellent deal for Green Hills.


It surprised and impressed us that Green Hills made behind the scenes moves that portend for significant growth and positioning against Wind River by hiring two individuals that bring another dimension to the competitive marketplace that will be to their advantage. Although I’m not obliged to keep such under wraps, I do respect the Green Hills folks and will keep these details to ourselves – other than to mention that they are the first of the usual suspects to clearly see the light.


Also impressive was the traffic through the VersaLogic and Synopsys booths. Although Kontron had the large booth, VL garnered significant leads. Also the large Express Logic booth had standing room only for their presentations – recognition of how ThreadX continues to grow. Micrium, though having a smaller booth had significant traffic as well. This shows that the smaller OS companies are making progress against the larger incumbents.


We were also impressed with our discussions with MontaVista. They had requested some specific questions be placed in the 2010 EMF Survey of Embedded Developers – questions that we didn’t clearly understand, but as we had the room for them we included such. They explained to us how these questions allowed them to quantify actual BOM costs for open source Linux and how this enhanced their market strategy. As they are the only commercial Linux company to provide a mid-development migration path for RYO Linux developers to roll into their MV6 product, we were delighted to learn how they used our data to arrive at their findings (we learn a lot from our subscribers).


A year ago Glenn Perry was handed the reins of Mentor’s group from Neil Henderson. Glenn at that time laid out what we thought was an overly ambitious agenda – we were wrong. Although much of our discussions were for internal consumption only, we can tell you that they have made impressive gains and are on the verge of major gains.


It is becoming clear that discretionary DoD funding levels are falling and OS companies have been running to the medical devices industry to compensate. As most companies are in love with their products and feel that they have the cure for the imaginary disease that they feel will cure and enhance the medical devices marketplace. Having built a number of medical device companies (taken two public) and having successfully filed a very large number of 510k applications, I found it interesting that no one wanted to listen to what we feel are the needs of medical device manufacturers and where the sales process differs from different verticals (most want to believe that medical and defense verticals have the same requirements).


It is interesting to have discussions with companies (they know who they are and I won’t embarrass them) to learn how many hundreds-of-thousands of $$ they have wasted being off message on who they were targeting and what they were offering. For such brilliant folks, they forgot the basics of market intelligence.


IBM Rational was in attendance and on-target and impressive as always. Artisan didn’t show with their MDD offering which was probably a good idea on their part. General Dorriot – the head of the original funding group of Digital Equipment Company – once wrote “bad ideas like dead horses should be buried with a minimum of ceremony”. Atego, the renamed Artisan group that includes Aonix, was represented by Gary Cato – a wonderful and incredibly patient and competent guy who made the rounds with spirit. As in the play Death of a Salesman, Gary is finding limited success notwithstanding that he’s firing at targets with limited ammunition. He has my vote as the most unsung hero at the show.

For those of our readers that are in or interested in the medical devices arena, EMF has produced a market brief, Critical Issues Confronting Medical Device Manufacturers – EMF Guide for Medical Device Developers


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