Yes, it's already started, Chuck, and there are surely more to come. When the IoT will actually begin to become a true reality, however, is another story...I think maybe in five years we'll get there, and that's being generous!
Yes, you're right, I'm in the habit of saying Phillips because Intel stopped supporting and making the 8051 quite some time ago. Phillips was the first to buy the core license and did an excellent job of supporting the part with plenty of variations and readable documentation. It seems that everybody has an 8051 variant, my favorite licensee is Silicon Labs. Silabs has some amazing versions that can outperform a 32 bit machine. I really think that success of the core licensing model used on the 8051 is what gave ARM the idea to create a core licensing company.
I wonder if Microchip (originally General Instruments) had used as a licensing strategy they could have kept Holtek and others from making knockoffs and stealing business that is rightly theirs?
Intel originated the 8051 back in 1978 and licensed a LOT of second sources. Signetics was an early licensee and Philips picked up that license when they bought out Signetics. Signetics had already come out with a few new flavors, including a low-pin-count version I had just designed-in. The Philips buyout worried me - I had designed-in an MMI part just before AMD bought them out and discontinued that particular part with no pin-compatible alternative. Philips, however, continued my Signetics part and pushed out an explosion of 8051 variants, some of which I've used over the years. I recall that back in 1983 or 1984 a manager chewed me out for designing in an 80C52 - didn't I realize the family would be obsolete in a couple years? He wanted me to re-spin the design around an 80286 - real state-of-the-art technology that'll be around for decades.
It's not the particular micro, it's the ARM M0 core that's used in the micro. It seems that every manufacturer has their own version of the M0, which suggests that they have a very aggressive licensing program reminiscent of what Phillips did with the 8051.
Yet another example of components companies releasing products to enable the Internet of things with more versatile microcontrollers that can support a range of applications, including connectivity. This will definitely continue to be a trend for some time until the IoT becomes a reality, which could take some years but is starting to unfold.
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