I know I shouldn't be surprised anymore, but it continues to amaze me how far into the design process the distributors are getting. I just had a meeting with both Avnet and Xilinx. I'm well aware that these two companies are working very closely together (see X-fest). But it's to the point that Avnet is creating development kits using Xilinx's Spartan FPGAs that are more advanced than anything I would have expected. For example, they're announcing the Spartan-6 LX16 evaluation kit and LX150T development kit. Both kits support the FMC expansion standard, which enables additional add-on modules and easy customization when working with FPGAs.
Ironically, as I was writing this piece, I received an e-mail announcing that Arrow and Altera are collaborating on an evaluation board of their own, the BeMicro. The board provides a low-cost and convenient way to demonstrate the use of soft-core processors in embedded, FPGA-based designs.