Freescale makes room for ARM in MCU portfolio

Freescale Semiconductor has bowed to customer pressure and developed a series of microcontrollers, called Kinetis, based around ARM’s Cortex M4 architecture that overlap with the company’s Coldfire and recently launched Coldfire-Plus products.

Jim Stuart, European consumer and industrial microcontroller marketing manager, said: “We are launching 200 new Cortex M4 devices that will run in parallel with our existing ColdFire and Power architecture microcontrollers. Because of requests from customers we have decided to introduce this ARM family as well [as the existing microcontroller families].”

Stuart said: “Many customers, and in increasing numbers, are coming to us and saying they want to use an ARM solution. Customers are choosing ARM and some are choosing it exclusively. We could be like King Canute and say, ‘we provide Coldfire and nothing else’.” But the company decided that, to protect its position in 32bit microcontrollers, to support the ARM architecture in industrial microcontroller.

Freescale already has an architectural licence from ARM but has concentrated its efforts up to now on devices aimed at mobile handsets and internet devices through the i.MX family.

Stuart said customers can stick with Coldfire: “A third of our business is based on Coldfire. So this is why we are continuing with the Coldfire product portfolio.”

Martin Burns, director of sales for northern and south Europe, the Middle East and Africa, argued: “We are not threatened by the transition. Coldfire volumes are very significant. We are not going to lose customers. If they want to go ARM we have that in our portfolio.”

As with the Coldfire-based products, Freescale will supply a real-time operating system (RTOS) based on the MQX kernel and protocol stacks to users of the ARM-based devices. “We are the only semiconductor supplier who supplies a full-featured RTOS with our products. It is available today across the Coldfire family and is being extended across Kinetis as well.”

Expected to sample in time for the Electronica trade show in November, Stuart said production volumes of the first Kinetis and the Coldfire-Plus microcontrollers will be available in the first quarter of 2011.

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