San Jose, CA— For years, vendors of microcontrollers, ASICs, DSPs and similar components have focused almost entirely on electronics specialists. Now, however, they are beginning to address OEM design engineers.
We heard that view again and again during visits with such major electronics suppliers as Motorola, Texas Instruments, Microchip, and ARM at the recent Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose. That's also the opinion of Chuck Murray, a former Design News editor now writing in the electronics field. He cites the new PC installed in the Cadillac DeVille. In that application, leading GM engineers made the key decisions on everything from processors to operating systems to on-board memories.
As Murray explains it, unlike the early days of electronics, when product design was relegated to specialists, today's products are designed by teams. The people who make the nuts-and-bolts decisions are often those in charge of the total design. This is a sharp departure from a decade ago, he adds, when a company building a "smart" product relied on autonomous, in-house technical teams. Months later, those teams handed their work off to other team members.
Not so today. Many companies can't wait 18 months for programmers to write an in-house operating system. Nor do they want to rely on in-house hardware engineers to develop proprietary components. Such firms are increasingly buying off-the-shelf operating systems, microcontrollers, and digital signal processors—complete "systems on a chip."
For that reason, experts say that vendors need to show engineers in charge of the total design how embedded products will affect the performance of the end product. The key decision maker may be the company's chief engineer or the lead engineer for the total product or system. Whether that individual came up through mechanical or electrical engineering ranks doesn't matter.
Over the next 10 years, OEMs will embed intelligence into all sorts of products: appliances, automobiles, machine tools, medical equipment, packaging machinery, and office systems, among others. The burgeoning embedded systems market is expected to jump from $2.5 billion in 2001 to more than $40 billion in 2006.