Trevor Martin, Hitex UK
embedded.com (February 17, 2015)
The widespread adoption of the Cortex-M processor into general purpose microcontrollers has led to two rising trends within the electronics industry. First of all the same processor is available from a wide range of vendors each with their own family of microcontrollers. In most cases, each vendor creates a range of microcontrollers that span a range of requirements for embedded systems developers.
This proliferation of devices means that as a developer you can select a suitable microcontroller from many hundreds of devices while still using the same tools and skills regardless of the silicon vendor. This explosive growth in Cortex-M-based microcontrollers has made the Cortex-M processor the de facto industry standard for 32-bit microcontrollers and there are currently no real challengers.
The flip side of the coin is differentiation. It would be possible for a microcontroller vendor to design their own proprietary 32-bit processor. However, this is expensive to do and also requires an ecosystem of affordable tools and software to achieve mass adoption. It is more cost effective to license the Cortex-M processor from ARM and then use their own expertise to create a microcontroller with innovative peripherals.
There are now more than 10 silicon vendors shipping Cortex-M-based microcontrollers. While in each device the Cortex-M processor is the same, each silicon manufacturer seeks to offer a unique set of user peripherals for a given range of applications.
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