By Liam Power & Shane Robinson, Embedded Labs Ltd.
Embedded.com (12/30/09, 06:14:00 AM EST)
ARM has been in the news a lot recently as they position themselves for the impending battle against Intel in the burgeoning high-end embedded processor market. Much to the delight of the trade press, Intel have turned their enormous marketing budget to focus on the embedded marketplace and it is hard to find an embedded related website that is not presently displaying Intel advertising.
At the recent Embedded Systems Conference in Farnborough, UK, the Intel versus ARM drama stole the show at the State of Microelectronics keynote.
While this is potentially an interesting story, is the real story not what is happening right now in the embedded microcontroller market? In 2007, the embedded microcontroller market was worth $26billion, shared amongst over 40 vendors of over 50 different architectures. No single vendor had more than 5 percent market share1.
ARM launched the Cortex-M3 processor in October 2004. In March 2006, Luminary Micro (now a division of Texas Instruments) launched the first Cortex-M3 based microcontroller. STMicroelecronics followed suit in June 2007 with the extensive STM32 range. Since then, NXP, Atmel, Zilog and many others have licensed the processor.
As of March 2009, there were 28 licensees including 6 of the top 10 worldwide semiconductor companies2. While a very different market, if ARM's achievements in smart phones (>80 percent market share1 ) are anything to go by, the Cortex-M3 may spark a rapid consolidation of the microcontroller market, dramatically reducing the number of competing architectures on offer.
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