SAN JOSE, Calif. — This year, ARM will release a free, open source operating system for Cortex-M devices and processor-agnostic IoT cloud software that it will license on a royalty basis for large service providers. The so-called mbed platform is the first product of a new business unit focused on the Internet of Things and the latest effort at unifying the fragmented sector.
Embedded software companies are just beginning to discover their partner ARM is now a competitor.
Christian Legare, chief technology officer of Micrium, heard the news from a reporter shortly after he arrived in Silicon Valley for this week's ARM Tech Con, where mbed is being announced. Just a week ago, Micrium announced its own end-to-end software for IoT nodes and clouds. He took a wait-and-see position on the news, saying he wants to find out details of ARM's software in meetings this week.
In some ways, "the writing was on the wall," Legare said. "In PCs, Intel invested hundred of millions for Linux. In smartphones, Google invested for Android, and in embedded, we expected a similar situation."
ARM's IoT unit joins at least 17 companies providing an embedded OS, including two from Microsoft. At least seven are based on Linux or other open source code, including FreeRTOS, one of the most widely used, according to the latest EETimes embedded systems study.
ARM has "huge market access, and it knows its licensees requirements months before anyone else, so it has a huge market advantage," said Richard Barry, the developer and founder of the company behind FreeRTOS. The OS move is "analogous to ARM's compiler strategy where it invests heavily in free compilers and also promotes its own heavily. ARM is full of contradictions... It both wants to enable processors and dominate the tools market at the expense of its ecosystem."
Christopher Rommel, an analyst for VDC Research Group, said ARM's entrance clearly "squeezes the market for Micrium, Express Logic, and others that target this segment." This is "a further commoditization of traditional OSes. Increasingly, the future viability of OS vendors rests on their ability to develop a suite of runtime software and tools, as companies such as Express Logic and Wind River have been doing."
ARM's mbed OS supports several IoT protocols and transports.
Bryan Kester, CEO of the IoT cloud provider SeeControl, supported the mbed effort in ARM's press release. "This is a much-needed effort to streamline the universe of technologies and options that define the Internet of Things," he said. "The ARM platform offers a superior mix of IoT security tools, protocols and enabling technologies."
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