It’s the SW, Stupid!

I came across this article from Jim Turley at Electronic Engineering Journal today, and it really brought home a point that I’ve harped on many times before: When the Silicon Doesn’t Matter.

Not enough silicon vendors understand the importance of the hobbyist and hacker community out there.  Having worked on both sides of the chasm that seperates hobbyists and silicon vendors, I can say with conviction that bridges between the two are few and far between, and it’s hard to get on the radar of anyone in apps engineering (support) or marketting for less than 1M chips … 100K is peanuts, even if that feels huge to a small to medium-sized company.

While that makes sense from a short-term dollars and cents perspective, it’s suicide longer term if you’re producing general purpose MCUs that aren’t tailored to a very specific and clearly understood need.  General-purpose chips succeed longer term because people talk about them, publish problems and solutions online, and all this pushes people to choose those chips precisely because they perceive that there is support out there for them and they’re not alone.  You can have the best technical solutions out there, but if you don’t have a decent community you’re only going to make problems for yourself longer term and have to compete on far more unfavorable terms with everyone else.  Get the right hobbyists in your camp, and 1/3 of your probems are already solved with general purposes MCUs.  I’ve seen it first hand in both good and bad examples, and with time I’m only more convinced it’s true.

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1 Comment

  1. Exactly. Atmel v.s. Microchip. One has an opensource GPL toolchain including debuggers and things like avrdude and avrice fully supported and maintained, the other is at best an afterthought.

    Even the best windows-only captive, limited software won’t work.

    I started with Arduinos, moved to bare AVR, then to attinys. On linux.

    The vendors don’t have to do much, just provide data, and a bit of support.

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