Robert Cravotta, Embedded Insights Inc
EDN (November 13, 2012)
Parts one, two, and three of this series offer a brief overview of the processor architecture ecosystem, identify and map the processing sweet-spot spectrum of mainstream processing architectures, and cover the issues addressed by low-power, small-data-width processors. This part discusses how incumbent microprocessor architectures can compete with ARM-based processors.
The explosion of ARM-based processors contained in mobile devices has caused some people to ask whether ARM will displace other microprocessor architectures in other markets. The incumbent microprocessor architectures, however, have a secret weapon that is analogous to the 8-bit microcontrollers: domain knowledge that is embedded in the architecture and ecosystem of the incumbent architecture.
Consider that specific variants of a microprocessor architecture will include features—developed, tested, and refined over the years—that make those variants especially well suited to the target application’s specific requirements. Also consider the body of software that serves the given market. A strong incumbent microprocessor architecture, much like the 8-bit microcontrollers, is surrounded by a strong and mature ecosystem of developers, tools, operating systems, and middleware that provides a buffer for the incumbent to respond to a challenger.
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