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Weighing in on the Intel-Wind River deal

Posted: 10 Jun 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel Wind River deal? embedded application? processor? software? multicore?

With its acquisition of embedded software provide Wind River Systems Inc., Intel Corp. has unambiguously signaled that it is again attempting to diversify beyond X86 processors. Intel has tried and largely failed in the past to expand into markets like ASICs and communications.

By acquiring Wind River and its open-source approach to embedded software development, Intel could change the game in the embedded market this time around by making, according to our Rick Merritt, "the Wind River Linux and RTOS variants first-class citizens on Intel's CPUs." In so doing, Intel also will effectively end the Wintel duopoly of the 1990s. Good riddance.

Meanwhile, in an interview with business editor Bolaji Ojo, an Intel spokesman said: "We have very ambitious plans to grow in the embedded area as a key part of our strategy to turn every electronic product into computing equipment. We are looking at multibillion opportunities in the embedded area, and while our software and services sales are nominal, [Intel's software] group is more strategic for the company's future." Even Intel, it now appears, sees more market upside and innovation potential in software than in microprocessors alone.

We polled our U.S. and European editors to get their take on the deal. Here are samples of their take. Make sure to let us know your take.

Rediscovering embedded
There has undoubtedly been a feeling in the embedded sector that Intel had "rediscovered" embedded in the past year. In March, at Embedded World in Nuremberg, Intel launched its "embedded-ready" Atom program, which included paying its respects to the sector's long-life requirements (seven-year life cycle) and more-appropriate packaging. There was a stream of press presentations from board suppliers, with Intel sharing the podium and repeating the mantra of "15 billion connected devices by 2015." It was a similar scene at the Embedded Systems Conference in Silicon Valley in April.

VDC Research Group Inc. forecasts that more than 10.7 billion embedded processors, including CPUs, DSPs, FPGAs and MCUs, will be shipped in 2009. That's not a market to sniff at.

So Intel is feeling good about the embedded sector, and the feeling looks to be mutual. Intel has cash, so why shouldn't it look to expand its revenue base and widen the technology it can offer?

Wind River, for its part, has come through some sticky patches in the past decade but now has its house in order. In March, the company said it turned a loss of $2.4 million in 2008 into a profit of $10.8 million for its 2009 financial year. Was it just happenstance that it has been making regular technology announcements with Intel over the past year?

The two companies are initially targeting the aerospace and defense, network infrastructure, industrial, medical and imaging markets. Conspicuous in its absence is consumerIntel's traditional market.

Perhaps virtualization is key to the deal. As 3i Group plc executive Laurence Garrett said in April, "The virtualization of data processing and the rollout of broadband are driving another wave" of activity.

Colin Holland, editor for EE Times Europe and Embedded Systems Design Europe

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