Inc. said yesterday it is rolling out a new open-source integrated
development environment (IDE) that could make it easier for engineers to get
started with embedded control.
Known as MPLab X IDE, the new product provides engineers
with a single IDE for more than 800 of the company's microcontrollers,
including 8-, 16-, and 32-bit devices. Introduced at the Embedded Systems Conference
here, it uses an open-source framework based on the NetBeans platform, and offers
cross-platform support for Linux, Mac OS and Windows operating systems. The
company's engineers say they focused on ease of use, which could be critical
for engineers who haven't done a lot of embedded control work.
"We're making the system approachable," noted Derek Carlson,
vice president of development systems for Microchip. "We want to attract new
users who may not have as much experience in embedded control and we're trying
to make it less scary for them."
Microchip said that they wanted the new IDE to be compatible
with a wide range of development tools to shorten the learning curve for users.
As such, MPLab X provides a single, unified graphical interface for Microchip devices
and for third-party tools. The company also wanted to make it simple for users
to migrate up and down within its huge portfolio of PIC microcontrollers, dsPIC
digital signal controllers and memory devices.
"If you're changing your application from one architecture
to another, you don't have to re-learn" Carlson said. "You can migrate up and
down and still have the same set of tools."
Carlson added that IDEs often get fragmented within a
portfolio, causing users to have to employ different ones for 8-bit, 16-bit and
32-bit architectures. With MPLab X, Microchip made a concerted effort to
prevent that from happening, he said.
The company said it is especially interested in appealing to
mechanical engineers and other design professionals who don't have a great deal
of embedded programming experience.
"Our ability to get people started quickly is what
distinguishes us," Carlson said.
A middle school team from Rochester, Mich., has again nabbed the grand prize in the annual international Future City Competition, which drew students from 37 regions of the United States, as well as from England and China.
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