Archive for September, 2010

The Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) – Boston 2010


What if the Hokey-Pokey is NOT what it’s all about?


Back in the 1950’s and sixties, the rage was a dance called the Hokey-Pokey. It was yesterday’s Electric Slide and Macarena. Everyone did the Hokey-Pokey, or they were social outcasts. The song used the words “You put your whole self in and then your whole self out. You do the Hokey-Pokey and you turn yourself around – that’s what it’s all about.”


In year’s past, the Embedded Systems Conferences (whether they were held in San Jose, Boston or Chicago) were what it was all about. If you missed taking a booth at any conference, one went to the bottom of the availability list – cast out to the dungeon. Failing to display at an ESC conference was a tacit admission to the world that you were going out of business. Many years ago Wind River declined to attend ESC Boston and Green Hills Software gave out milk cartons showing a tornado with the caption, “Have you seen Wind River anywhere?”


Although the Embedded Systems conferences held in Germany have largely replaced ESC in size and grandeur, CMP’s ESC Boston is still an extremely important venue for our industry.


Aside from flash backs from my glory days (I can still do the Electric Slide and the Macarena, thank you – notwithstanding some breathing difficulties), I couldn’t help missing the glory days of ESC Boston as we attended this year’s event.


We were shocked to see how much smaller the event was as compared with previous years – this seemed to be the consensus as well of editors who remember the event going back 10 years or more. Second, other than a few large booths (Microchip, Green Hills and IBM stand out in memory) the booths we saw were small and the number of software companies attending with booths were few and far between.


We did see, and speak with, executives from a number of embedded software companies who attended without having booths. They will certainly be at ESC San Jose next May – but not in Boston.


We’re not sure if we can blame it on the economy since we have seen the decline over the past 3 years. But we did note that the smaller size did put a crimp on the sponsor’s spending. You see, we editors and analysts have been spoiled in the past. The press room was filled with drinks, munchies and sandwiches of all types. This year we couldn’t even get a cup of coffee. We had to walk a hundred yards or more to get a cup which was inconvenient – but we understood that times were tough for CMP Media.


ESC has continued to survive thanks to Microsoft – but that is a two-edged sword. Microsoft has made demands on attendees – which in the long run was counter productive. But CMP has had little choice in the matter.


We continue to see a lot of board companies, dynamic and static analysis tool vendors and a hodge-podge of services companies. The floor traffic appeared rather light to us, but many vendors said that they received qualified leads – particularly on the first day. CMP has gone to great lengths to arrange teaching sessions so that there would be adequate traffic on the floor.


We heard a lot of questions and concerns regarding processors – and in particular those that would be favored during the next two year period. This was good for us as these issues are covered in detail in our research.


All in all, we continue to believe in the value of ESC Boston and hope that CMP will continue to provide this important venue – for the advantages to vendors and developers as well.


I will live with the knowledge that the Hokey-Pokey is NOT what it’s all about anymore – and that will be my little secret. After all, a recent survey of freshmen entering college showed that they never heard about the Challenger accident, tape recorders or the Kennedy assassination, I can deal with the Hokey-Pokey situation.


If they know about the Macarena they probably think it is for grandparents like Dolores and me. We don’t dare tell them about the Hokey-Pokey – they probably think that we are a waste of good oxygen as it is.


ESC Boston is dead – long live ESC Boston.



Selecting an Embedded RTOS: Factors of Importance to Developers 2009-2010

Every year, for the past 12 years, EMF has asked embedded developers to respond to a comprehensive and detailed survey that explores all aspects of their design and development activities in a manner that permits EMF to correlate answers to any questions – or series of questions – with any other question or series of questions. The survey is constructed and conducted in a statistically accurate manner to insure valid interpretations (including the ability to create comparative ROIs between similar product offerings).


In 2010, 536 developers responded to the survey resulting in a statistical confidence level of 95% +/- 4.5%. This is extremely important to EMF as many of our subscribers are basing their competitive position by needing to  forecast what chip and OS usages will be two years from now.


We can, of course, examine these responses from the perspective of any vendor’s individual operating system (which many of our subscribers do to look at their users as well as their competitor’s users).


Year-over-year we ask developers to select from among many alternative responses (we limit each developer to a maximum of 4 responses) to the question regarding which factors are most important to their decision to select an operating system. We also ask what factors would enter into their decision to purchase from either a single vendor or from multiple vendors. We may publish this data in another post.


The following table presents comparative responses to the factors regarding the OS selection process for the periods 2009 and 2010. The top 15 responses (out of 33 possible) are presented.








Acquisition cost



Availability of source code



Microprocessor support



Real time performance



Compatibility with our development tools



Includes good development tools






Compatible with Linux



Availability of perpetual license



Availability of req. middleware or networking protocols



Availability of professional services



Host platform support



Quality of support



Royalty cost (production licenses)



Must be open source




The lists are comparable between 2009 and 2010 with “realtime performance” and “reliability” taking the steepest drop (but remaining important nonetheless), and “Linux” compatibility “microprocessor support” and “source code availability” being the largest gainers.


This bodes well for the Linux community. Such items as “safety certifiable (DO178B, etc.)”, “visualization” and ““security certification (NSA, Common Criteria)” received middle single digit response levels.


We have seen this result for many years – and, due to the proliferation of communications and consumer devices, this is why we have forecast the growth in ThreadX, Micrium, MontaVista Linux and Nucleus use. These OSes have been deployed in hundreds of millions of devices worldwide. Unless the application calls for a MILS level certification, alternative OSes are being used in place of the high power OSes of the past.