Consumer Market Shapes Embedded Trends

By John Blyler - Editorial Director

The world of “all things embedded” continues to grow, thanks in large measure to the rise of consumer-electronic products. As Jane points out in our “Market Watch” report, over $160 billion worth of consumer-electronics (CE) products were shipped to dealers in the U.S. in 2007. That represents an 8% growth rate from the year prior, as compared to the U.S. real gross-domestic-product (GDP) increase of 2.2% for the same period (Bureau of Economic Analysis).

That rise in CE products comes at a steep price. Namely, embedded products must be cheaper, use less power, and occupy less space while offering more features. Embedded designers are meeting these challenges as they always have: by trading off one constraint against the other. To help keep costs low, for example, embedded engineers are reusing past hardware and software designs. They add only incremental performance/feature improvements. Power and size savings are coming through an analysis of the whole system including the packages and boards. (Recall the Intel® architecturebased- Apple MacBook laptop.) Further cost savings will be realized through the ongoing outsourcing of design and manufacturing activities.

This issue of Embedded Intel® Solutions highlights many of the tried-and-true design techniques needed for today’s consumer electronics. Package modeling and layout optimization are examined as a way to improve the performance of high-speed SerDes designs. In addition, a feature story focuses on the use of Franchisable Embedded Platforms (FEPs) to enable the quick reuse of existing designsparticularly with interfaces like USB and Ethernet. Or consider the use of embedded calibration techniques to inexpensively yet accurately calibrate analog circuits in embedded applications.

Perhaps one of the most significant design approaches announced in recent times is the extension of Intel’s prolific x86 architecture to a system-on-a-chip (SoC) implementation. Geoffrey James interviews key Intel experts to gain a better understanding of what that approach will mean to embedded designers across the globe. This is but a sampling of this issue’s content, which strives to address the challenges facing today’s embedded designers. This content is complemented by the latest news, design aids, and product resource catalogs located on the Embedded Intel Solutions web site: Feel free to contact me directly with comments or suggestions for future content.