The dumbest thing I Never did - Embedded.com

The dumbest thing I Never did

A close friend is a serious part-time investor. He watches Cramer every night, researches companies thoroughly, and spends quite a few hours per week managing his investments. He does well at it.

I can’t be bothered. To me, the process is not terribly interesting and I have little knowledge of these issues. So I mostly stick with index funds.

In one of the Back to the Future movies Biff gets a book of sports results from the future and bets his way to riches. I wish I had had such a book for stock picks. Consider this: in December of 2008 the stock of Arm Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMH) was going for a bit under $4/share. As of this writing (November 20, 2013 ) it’s $46, better than an order of magnitude increase.

The dumbest thing I never did was to not buy ARMH five years ago. The following graph (from finance.google.com ) in Figure 1 shows ARM’s spectacular rise. The blue is ARMH; for comparison check out the Dow in orange:


Figure 1. ARM Holdings' vs the Dow
In 2012 ARM Holdings earned about $260 million (using today’s exchange rates, as the annual reprort is in Pounds ). With 1.4 billion shares issued that’s a P/E of an astonishing 248. Compare that to the average of 18 in the Dow Industrials. The company is valued at $64B yet total revenue was under a billion dollars last year.

The results are amazing for any company, but especially for one that doesn’t make anything.

Digi-key lists over 6000 different ARM-based microcontrollers. Sure, some are just small variations like different packaging options. But that represents two-thirds of all of the 32 bit MCUs Digi-key offers. 4800 of those 6000 ARM MCUs are Cortex-M series parts.

I think the success of the M-series is one of the most exciting developments in the last decade. The M0 is a quite minimal 32 bitter that can be sold very inexpensively. At the high end the M4 can have an MPU, SIMD and even hardware floating point. And you’re still only talking a few bucks per part.

Some licensees are doing amazing things. NXP’s LPC4370 has an M4 and M0, letting designers split the workload up, or put the M4 to sleep when the work only needs a more power-frugal M0. A second M0 id dedicated to some of the I/O. Freescale’s Kinetis series is a carefully mapped out set of CPUs covering a broad range of applications. NXP, ST and a ton of others sell huge varieties of M-series parts.

ARM projects that by 2016 the current 26 billion microprocessor chips sold will grow to 40 billion per year. IDC predicts that the Internet of Things will be an $8.9 trillion dollar market in 2020 with 212 billion different devices connected. Others, notably Fairchild Semiconductor, claim there will be a trillion sensors deployed by that date. How many ARM cores will be in this fabric of connections?

For years I’ve felt the industry suffered because of the huge array of different processor architectures. The outcome is a smaller market for tools for each CPU. The increasing use of ARM cores means more users, so vendors have the incentive, and money, to optimize their offerings. Fewer architectures means less retraining when switching processors.

What do you think? Is the ARM juggernaut likely to displace most of the 32 bit MCU architectures?

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded developmentissues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companieswith their embedded challenges, and works as an expert witness onembedded issues. Contact him at . His website is.

10 thoughts on “The dumbest thing I Never did

  1. “Is the ARM juggernaut likely to displace most of the 32 bit MCU architectures? ”

    That has already happened hasn't it? What 32-bit architecture is even close? Your trusty laptop might have “Intel Inside” but it also has probably 5 or more ARMs managing ev

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  2. Our company pays big bucks to IAR. I really don't know why. The only real difference is code optimization but unless you are really pinching pennies and trying to squeeze something into the smallest prom you can, it is more trouble than it is worth. The de

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  3. Just about everything I am involved with in the embedded world is ARM based. (We still have a couple legacy AVR centric products that will soon be replaced with ARM devices.) New designs will also be ARM centric. Just too rich of an ecosystem internally a

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  4. We also pay IAR. The debugger works just fine on optimized code; it's human brains that don't follow the optimization, and e.g. get upset about not being able to distinguish breakpoints because the compiler shared the common code – just like assembler cod

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  5. That's nothing. The dumbest thing I never did was invest in BitCoin. It was about $5 a coin when I first looked at it less than 2 years ago. It's now $1000 a coin. I could have turned $5000 into instant retirement. Oh well.

    It remains to be seen if B

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  6. That would not be investment. It would be speculating. Investing is when you look at fundamental performance and make an informed decision. Speculating is not.

    People buying it madly right now are just speculating that it will continue to go up. There is

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  7. I don't know why but PowerPC is still the defacto standard in our company (avionics). We always use the newest PPC from Freescale so the argument of prevoiusly used HW doesn't even hold. The closest to a real argument is interfacing to existing FPGA IP – l

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  8. One big thing IAR has going for it with ever increasing regulatory pressure is that their build tools have been certified for development of safety critical applications (IEC 61508 and ISO 26262).

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  9. Not necessarily. The bet is that bitcoin will become the defacto standard for international money transfer, in which case each bitcoin would be worth billions of dollars.

    Bitcoin solves the central bank requirement for money transfer.

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  10. I don't think there is any need for a standardised currency any more.

    The need for a benchmark currency (eg. USD) is based on the obsolete idea that communications is slow and thus people want to trade using a reasonably stable currency. USD no longer fit

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