In 1981 Motorola was shipping the 68000 and Intel the 8086. Eight bit processors were the most common; the 8051 was in production and Z80s were found everywhere. That was also the year Jerry Fiddler started Wind River (the name came from the Wind River mountain range, a Wyoming favorite of Jerry’s ).
Consultants at first, by 1987 the company came out with the first version of VxWorks, the RTOS that forever defined the company. VxWorks, though much improved and in now available in many different flavors, is still the company’s flagship product.
In 1993 Wind went public, the first embedded outfit to do so. In the heady days preceding the dot-com collapse the company’s stock soared and they bought, well, everybody: ISI. Dr. Design. Embedded Systems Tools. Diab. SDS.
What goes up must come down. After the Internet boom imploded Wind River sputtered along for a time and lost money for years. But eventually the ship righted itself and in recent years has been respectably profitable. They have always been the 800-pound gorilla of the industry, one of the few embedded tool vendors with revenues over $100m. Their sales have typically been in the quarter billion to a third of a billion dollar range in recent years.
As the economy recovered it was soon apparent that Linux was to be an important force in embedded systems. In 2004 Wind entered that market, and I’m told Linux is now an important revenue source for them (the company has never broken out sales by segment). Some surveys suggest that today nearly half of all 32 bit embedded apps run Linux, alone or in conjunction with a conventional RTOS.
2009 saw a remarkable change: in a move puzzling to analysts Intel bought Wind River. Intel, the inventor of the embedded system, had over the years jettisoned all of the processors targeted at that market, but with the introduction of the Atom is reestablishing its presence in this space (though, oddly, they skipped the recent Embedded Systems Conference ).
In a nice bit of synergy Intel introduced the first embedded processor, the 4004, exactly ten years before Wind River was born. So Wind is 30 this year and the microprocessor is 40. In another bit of synergy some of the first processors VxWorks supported were the embedded offerings from Intel.
I’m told various people will be blogging about this anniversary event at http://blogs.windriver.com/ . At this writing there’s little relevant content there, but hopefully some old-timers will post memories and stories.
I congratulate Wind River on their 30 years, and on their continuing contributions for fully three quarters of the era of the microprocessor revolution. I can’t think of any other embedded software company that has survived for so long.
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 .