Embedded Newspeak - Embedded.com

Embedded Newspeak

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A company I visited last week bases all of their products on Wind River's popular VxWorks RTOS. Yet engineers told me they can't talk to Wind's people anymore. Huh? I've had no problem contacting them. Dial (800) 545-WIND, or email info@windriver.com.

No, the developers said, the problem is that the sales folks there seem to be speaking a different language.


I've noticed the same thing myself. The company is now billing themselves the “global leader in Device Software Optimization (DSO).” And here I thought they sold RTOSes, compilers, and other development tools for embedded systems.

Here's an excerpt from a recent press release:

ALAMEDA, Calif.–November 1, 2004–Wind River Systems [NASDAQ: WIND], the global leader in Device Software Optimization (DSO), today unveiled the largest technology release in the company's history, with the announcement of Wind River's Workbench 2.2, General Purpose Platforms, Market Specific Platforms and Platform for Network Equipment, Linux Edition. These products represent the industry's first enterprise-wide device software solutions designed to make the entire device development-and-support lifecycle more efficient and effective.

“More and more, products are being differentiated through innovation of device software. To succeed, companies must implement a Device Software Optimization strategy,” said Theresa Lanowitz, research director at Gartner Inc. “By using standards-based solutions that offer support for end-to-end development, companies can accelerate software-driven innovation while ensuring that connectivity and security become a part of every device.”

Huh? Grand words indeed, but what's the product? The rest of the release never really defines “platform,” but after a telephone conference with the company it became vaguely clear that this is rather like a super-duper IDE, with some cool bells and whistles thrown in. I'm sure it's a killer product and don't want to disparage their efforts. Or at least not the efforts of their engineers. But what is this gibberish?

The press release has nouns, verbs, even an adjective or two, used grammatically. But it's marketing doublespeak, nearly devoid of meaning. Why drape the product with phrases their customers (engineers all) don't understand?

Wind River's co-founder Jerry Fiddler, in his keynote speech at this year's Embedded Systems Conference, said: “There's no such thing as an embedded market. The device is much more interesting than the embedding.”

If there's no such thing as an embedded market than I guess I've wasted the last 30 years of my life. We build devices, sure, but every thing we make is an embedded system. Maybe Orwell's Newspeak would remap “embedded” to “device software optimization.” And Newspeak might also claim there's no construction industry, just “housing” and “office” and “retail” businesses. But it's hard to deny the fact that a huge and very viable construction industry provides the pool of workers and tools that build a vast number of different kinds of structures.

I've always admired Wind River. They suffered brutally through the dot-com bust which nearly destroyed their core telecomm/datacomm market. Revenues fell by half and losses between 2001 and 2003 exceed a half billion dollars. But the company is in turnaround with sales creeping upward and a profitable quarter behind them. They're doing a lot of things right.

Wind tells me that they're using Device Software Optimization because it better describes today's interconnected nature of electronic products and accelerated time-to-market. To me DSO sounds like tuning slow code, which is an important part of building a decent product. But it's a subset of building embedded systems, which has always dealt with networking and short schedules.

What do you think? Is this doublespeak or is Wind River, the biggest embedded systems company populated with some really smart people, on to something important?

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at . His website is .

Reader Response

I believe this marketing talk is just another proof that higher level methods are coming toreplace the “short sighted” ad-hoc ones currently in use in embedded systems.

– stefanos

Is WindRiver using doublespeak? Over the last half year, I had been getting the impressionfrom their marketing announcements that they were moving out of the embedded RTOS market. As a result, Ihad begun to look at other companies. For a company that sells their products exclusively to engineers,not to managers or marketing departments, Wind River needs to speak the engineer's language. So I agree100% with you.

– Dan Curtis

And here I thought that Tektronix was using DSO for Digital Storage Oscilloscope…

– Steven J. Ackerman

Your words are hilarious – and exactly right-on. One valuable skill needed more and more every day in allbusinesses is that ability to cut through the smoke and fog and determine whether value exists in aproposal. With Wind River and their VxWorks/Linux “platforms”, I think the value is definitely there butthe marketing strategy they're pursuing is counterproductive. Instead of thoughtfully clarifying andremoving ambiguity in their communications, the marketing geniuses are heaping it on. Instead ofdeveloping trust they're breeding skepticism and cynicism, of which engineers are not lacking alrea

– Tony DaSilva

“Device Software Optimization” sounds like some kind of profiling/code coverage tool, not like a full-blown IDE.

– Patrick Huesmann

Well. . .
Just another fine example of the MBA's being in charge instead of the Technical people. This is yet another side effect of the”commodization” effect that Intel and Microsoft have brought to the world. Hardware, Oh, just get a cheap PC to do the work. (thanksDell!) Oh, and you want some software to go with that, easy, crank it out on VS in no time flat. Or, hey, it's free, just downloadit! And what do you get? A bit heaping pile of steaming BS! Designing Embedded Systems is work, period. Part Engineering, Part Art, All Sweat. Yes, things have changed dramatically in the 20years I've been in the business. Gone are the days of the lone engineer who could do the entire project, HW, FW, SW. Today, it'smulti-national teams spread around the globe manged by non-technical people who are more concerned with meeting quarterly businessobjectives. Few work, most don't. Activities have become specialized almost to the point of absurdity. True, chip vendors todaywill provide more than just the chip, they may also provide drivers, BSP's, even point you to vendors they know work well with theirchip. So the “low level” stuff is done. So you can concentrate on your “value add'. The House one builds is only as good as thefoundation it's built on.

– Stephen Beckwith

If you catch me using Newspeak, whack me. OK?

– Steve Leibson

They're not the only ones. I'm still trying to figure out TI's Express DSP, and call me an idiot, but what the heck is Motorola's – err, sorry _FREESCALE's_ – Digital DNA? Not to mention Aspect Oriented Programming, Model Driven Architecture and on and on.

– Jeff Geisler

'Device Software Optimisation' sounds more like optimising and fine tuning PC-based software. Marketing and semi-technical people – those people who have several roadmaps at hand at any given time – will never understand what it means to design and build an embedded system.

– Srikanth Varma

Just some more marketing jargon to add to my list that I use to talk to managers… as an engineer, words that do not matter!

– Saravanan T S

I am not an engineer. But I guess there's nothing wrong about sharing ones thoughts, right? I do encounter a lot of technical stuff in my line of work and have read a couple of press releases from Wind River Systems. I'm quite sure they're up to something; only they know what.

– Kathryn Gerardino

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