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What hasn’t changed: "Embedded" is everywhere

August 29, 2011

Chris.Ciufo-August 29, 2011

A new editor for Embedded Systems Design; same deep coverage by the industry's most knowledgeable editorial team.

You'll notice a different face on this column. Allow me to introduce myself as the new editor of Embedded Systems Design magazine and our popular website Embedded.com. ESD, Embedded.com, and the previously named Embedded Systems Programming have been the industry's most comprehensive resources dedicated to software, tools, and hardware techniques for embedded systems design.

I recently joined the staff to broaden and deepen our coverage of the exploding market for "all things embedded"; but my personal after-hours quest is to educate people on what "embedded" really is. You readers all know where embedded fits, since you live it every day. Yet I'm constantly amazed at how many people and companies in the broader electronics market have no idea of that "embedded" encompasses everything from the software, tools and best practices, to CPUs, MCUs, and FPGAs right on up through to the application code and networking stacks making the system work. Sometimes I ask myself "Why can't people see that embedded is everywhere? Heck, except for servers and PCs, my cocktail party computer-talk tagline is that ‘everything is embedded.'"

Intel faced the same definition problem in the 1980s competing against AMD. [Full disclosure: I worked at AMD then.] The consumer buying a PC had no way of knowing what was inside the box (nor did they care) as the market commoditized and prices cratered. In 1991 Intel rolled out "Intel Inside" as a way to differentiate their products from AMD and raise prices. It was revolutionary at the time because except for TI calculators and Motorola radios, the typical user had no idea what a semiconductor brand was. The strategy of disclosing the electronics inside a box changed Intel's fortunes and today consumers are very aware of internal technology choices such as iOS, Android, Core i5/i7, and Tegra2.

In 2009 research firm IDC predicted "15 Billion connected devices by 2015," most of which are embedded doodads like Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs, per Intel), M2M controllers, kiosks, military ISR, whatever.1 Yet "embedded" remains somewhat of a mystery even to electronics analysts, journalists, marketeers, and business decision-makers. That's why I'm here. To direct ESD and expand embedded.com to provide you with even more content, education, training, tools, and software libraries to help you in your daily job.

I'm a hardware type, having worked at AMD (networking group), Sharp (ARM SoC and DSP) and at a series of military systems houses. I turned to writing about the industries I was in and founded or co-founded some magazines focusing on the defense industry. Through all of this my mantra of “embedded” was honed to a fine point. Along the way I met some really smart software types and saw that as the hardware commoditized around a few IC flavors and open standards, the differentiation, intellectual property, in fact the essence of what the system did was usually found in the software.

In a recent column for his Embedded Software Boot Camp posted on embeddedgurus.com, Michael Barr sited survey results that quantify the characteristics of embedded software engineers working on embedded systems. More importantly, he echoes my view of just how critical are the needs embedded software developers themselves who increasingly are h/w types turned programmers, or programmers who have to occasionally design hardware. More with less.

To that end, in the months ahead, we'll be bringing new capabilities and forums to you on Embedded.com. Most importantly will be the return of our forums and software collaboration libraries. And of course, we'll continue to bring you top-notch insider experts like Bernie Cole, Jack Ganssle, Dan Saks, Jack Crenshaw, Michael Barr, and others.

In the meantime, I can't do this without you since you're the experts on what you want and need. So please tell me. Drop me a line at chris.ciufo@ubm.com. I've spent 27 years in the embedded market that's finally getting its due because: embedded is everywhere. We knew it. Now everyone else is finally figuring that out.

Chris A. Ciufo is the director of content for Embedded Systems Design magazine, Embedded.com, and the Embedded Systems Conference. You may reach him at chris.ciufo@ubm.com.

Endnotes:
1. Gantz, John. "The Embedded Internet: Methodology and Findings." IDC. January 2009.

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