Is Intel a software company?
This question occurred to me when I saw the list of workshops Intel is running at ESC Boston (September 27 and 28). Over two days Intel will repeat three hour-long classes on a boot-loader, Android and Yocto, and a build-your-own Linux project; All of these are about software, and two out of three are open source. What's going on here? My take is that it's now crystal clear to all hardware vendors that their destiny lies in how they support their software ecosystem. Intel, despite its size, is no exception.
Looking at the three classes in detail, they all have something to offer embedded systems designers even if you aren't currently working on an x86-based project. The first class is cryptically titled: Reshaping the Intel Architecture Firmware Landscape using Intel Boot Loader Development Kit (Intel BLDK) for Embedded Designs, which in translation from Intelese to English means here's an easy and free way to get around the Achilles heel of all x86 systems--the BIOS. The BIOS has driven generations of developers crazy since the 1980s because it was always an issue of which BIOS, how do I configure it, how do I get support, and why do I have to pay for it. In the world of open source a poorly-performing, barely-supported, and potentially-costly BIOS makes no sense. If you have tangled with unruly BIOS recently, this session is well worth a look. It runs four times, and you get an Intel product manager presenting (Drew Jensen).
The second session is on the wonderfully named Yocto Project, which comes via the Linux Foundation. The Yocto Project is a platform for creating your own custom Linux distribution. It's being taught by Mark Hatle, a senior member of Wind River's technical staff. Official title off the session is Easily Create a Custom Embedded Linux for Your Embedded Device--on Any Architecture! And since it's broad in scope any developer should glean some useful knowledge from this session.
Last but not least is the Android session, which doesn't have an official title yet but the placeholder is Optimizing Android for Intel Atom Processors. I have a sneaking suspicion that the title will be much more exciting and informative after Intel's Developer Forum in San Francisco on September 13 through 15. Everything ESC does around Android is standing room only, so I expect this session to be well attended.
So is Intel a software company? Well, they bought Wind River and McAfee in the last year or so, both of which are software companies, and I've heard several times from Intel sources that they now employ more software engineers than hardware folks. I believe it.
If you can make it to Boston, here are three free software training sessions on key software innovations taught by Intel experts. How much better can it get? Register here.
David Blaza is senior vice president of UBM Electronics (the company that publishes EE Times, Embedded Systems Design, and EDN). David has over 20 years of sales, marketing, and publishing experience in the technology sector working for companies as diverse as IBM, Motorola, Mars Electronics, CMP and now United Business Media. He is a graduate of the University of Bradford, England (BS, Materials Science) and the University of Stirling, Scotland (MS in Economics & Technology).