26 September 2012 by Chris Edwards
Freescale Semiconductor and Mathworks are the latest to join the Arduino bandwagon. The former has decided to make its own Arduino-compatible boards based around the 32bit microcontrollers launched earlier this week. Mathworks has added support for boards such as the Arduino and Beagle Board within its standard offering - generating code from the models put together in MatLab and Simulink.
"I've seen a lot of Arduino usage and not just hobbyist, but prototyping and consultancy. There is a huge amount of development using Arduino in audio," say Geoff Lees, general manager of the automotive, industrial and multimarket sectors at Freescale. "And the Maker Faire movement is incredibly exciting. Guys built a satellite based on Arduino and got that into space. This is part of our desire to approach a wider customer base than in the past."
For Freescale, the concentration on smaller companies working with quick-hit development cycles sees the company come full circle. And its not alone. Texas Instruments is also moving away from high-volume mobile-phone designers and focusing more on the industrial sector where average company size is much smaller.
The start of this cycle came in 1995. The rise of the internet helped stoke up demand for electronic products and silicon manufacturers struggled to cope. The foundry business was still in its infancy and so chipmakers had to use whatever capacity they had available and turn away business when it ran out. Who got the bad news proved instrumental in the future of a number of companies. The biggest impact was on then microcontroller leader Motorola Semiconductors - now known as Freescale.
Motorola took the decision to restrict supplies to smaller customers, favouring those with large contracts. When the inevitable bust came along and the company went looking for customers to pick up the slack it found many of them had jumped ship and turned to competitors such as Microchip Technology which had a strategy geared towards smaller customers. As fast-moving small customers have a tendency to turn into giants quickly in the electronics sector, this turned out to be an effective strategy. Microchip became the company to beat.
But the circle keeps turning and, as sales turn down, companies are rediscovering how much they really liked small customers all along. Freescale, in particular, sees an opportunity to recapture its lost status thanks to the collapse in price difference between 8 and 32bit microcontrollers. And supporting platforms such as Arduino helps get those micros into the hands of more people, some of whom will ultimately become high-volume customers.
Posted By: Chris Edwards @ 26 September 2012 10:11 PM General
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