Mentor Graphics got into the embedded space by acquiring Accelerated Technology and its Nucleus real-time operating system (RTOS) almost a decade ago. It was a good acquisition, and Mentor has been a player in the embedded OS space since. They had been on the periphery of embedded prior, but this was a bigger play than before.
The Nucleus OS has ranked in the Top 10 in our annual Embedded Market Study for the past few years. And with the likes of Wind River and Microsoft claiming the top three spots, just making the top 10 is a significant achievement.
But to really be a player in the embedded space, it takes more than just a first-rate OS. It takes a complete, well-rounded arsenal of tools, services, support, etc. And that's what Mentor now has, thanks to the acquisition of Embedded Alley. Mentor now has solutions for Android and embedded Linux, and a richer suite of tools and services. The company also made a simultaneous announcement that is has the support of key processor vendors, including ARM, Freescale, Marvell, MIPS, RMI, and Texas Instruments.
We're already very aware of what Linux has to offer, and it's significant in terms of applications and platforms. But Android is just starting to scratch the surface of where it should exist in the embedded space. Is it simply a handset OS? Or does it extend to set-top boxes? Or can it become all-purpose OS, more along the lines of Linux?
Mentor's Glenn Perry, the GM of the embedded systems division, says that there are lots of places you'll see Android in the near future, some of them expected, and some unexpected. “We think that Android has an obvious play in telematics, and a not-so-obvious play in white goods.”
One example he gave of the white goods application is a microwave oven. With a display that's typically prominent and at eye level in many kitchens, this is an obvious place for a GUI that can become the message center in the home. If it can be done cheaply and easily, that makes sense.
Time will tell whether some of these Android applications pan out, but having a stake there can't be a bad thing, especially with the likes of Google behind it.
It'll take a while for the integration of Embedded Alley and Mentor Graphics, but I believe this was a good move.
The upside for Embedded Alley is that, as a privately-held company, they didn't have the capital to grow at the rate they wanted to. Now with the Mentor backing, they're hoping to grow much more quickly.
Where there is a difference of philosophy between the two companies is toward open-source software, and specifically how to monetize that. Embedded Alley has done a good job of doing just that with its offerings, while Mentor hasn't really entered the open-source fray.
While Mentor expects to gain a lot of the knowledge regarding open source, Perry says we shouldn't expect to see Nucleus as an open-source OS any time soon.
Richard Nass is editorial director of TechInsights. He can be reached at .