Thursday, July 30, 2009

Welcome, Mentor Graphics. Seriously.

What Happened?

Mentor Graphics announced at the Design Automation Conference a new strategy to target the next generation of mobile and non-mobile Linux devices. This expansion into the embedded Linux market will be supported by their acquisition of Embedded Alley, an embedded Linux product and services firm headquartered in San Jose with development offices in Russia. Oddly enough, no terms of the acquisition were disclosed as part of the announcement.

Similarly to IBM’s entrance into the PC market over twenty-five years ago, the magnitude of recent commitments to mobile Linux by tech industry stalwarts Google, Intel, and now Mentor Graphics help to validate Linux as a consumer-facing embedded operating system.

VDC’s View

Mentor’s market share in the embedded and real-time operating systems market has eroded over recent years, particularly with respect to its business in the mobile phone market and their inability to scale revenue from the no royalty-based Nucleus operating system in hundreds of millions of cell phones.

At the same time, advances in semiconductor technologies and the continued reductions in the cost of memory have allowed many device classes to deploy larger footprint embedded operating systems, such as Linux, than previously possible. Moreover, the Open Handset Alliance and the LiMo Foundation have generated a substantial amount of interest in and momentum for Linux as a mobile phone OS.

This acquisition signifies a renewed focus on the embedded software market as Mentor’s core EDA market stagnates. Much of the upside for Mentor, however, resides beyond mobile in the other application classes, such as telecom/datacom and military/aerospace, where their Nucleus RTOS is also widely deployed. Mentor can now offer their current and potential clients a choice or combination of operating systems to meet their varying project requirements.

Conversely, while a Linux offering will certainly aid Mentor’s embedded software value proposition, they acquired a company focused on professional services. As such, much of the acquisition’s value rests on the talent and retention of Embedded Alley’s team.

Although professional service capabilities continue to gain importance in the commercial embedded Linux market, Mentor has never had much services revenue around its traditional product offerings. As a result, we expect that Mentor’s ability to support and expand their professional services will ultimately dictate the success of entrance into the embedded Linux market.

The timing of this announcement is also rather fortuitous for Mentor given Intel’s recent acquisition of Wind River Systems. Wind River’s acquisition not only validates the growing importance of Linux in embedded systems, but it also presents other market participants with an opportunity to capitalize on any of the ensuing uncertainty or reevaluation in the market around Intel/Wind River’s support for non-Intel architectures..

This announcement is, in fact, just the latest action in a string of moves by other operating system vendors over recent years to offer Linux in addition to a proprietary real-time OS solution (i.e. Enea, LynuxWorks, SYSGO AG, and Wind River Systems, etc.).

In similar fashion to Wind River’s recent gains in the embedded Linux market, Mentor’s new offerings may allow it to recapture lost customers who had previously migrated from Nucleus to Linux as well as attract new device designs where Linux is a requirement. As a result, we expect that the collective smiles at MontaVista Software that appeared after Intel’s announced acquisition of WRS may be more tempered as they come to terms with the entrance of another deep-pocketed competitor offering Linux support.

Although Mentor was late to the party, it may turn out that they were just in time. In either case, welcome, Mentor Graphics. Seriously.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Down 2009 Expected to Lead to Growth in 2010 Embedded/Real-time Operating System Market

A recently published report by VDC Research indicates that embedded system manufacturers’ requirements and end-consumers’ expectations continue to drive substantial investment in embedded software and development tools.

The embedded and real-time operating system market, in particular, has faired better than many other sectors of the broader embedded market, with 2008 revenue demonstrating 9% growth over 2007. However, even this achievement is qualified with the expectation of the first industry contraction in 2009 since 2002.

“As a whole, the embedded operating system market has been greatly affected by the reduction in unit shipments over the past nine months due to the substantial percentage of market revenues typically derived from production licenses,” says Chris Rommel, Analyst with VDC’s Embedded Software and Tools Practice. “However, the magnitude of the recession’s impact has been tempered within the embedded and real-time segment due to the growing demands for software-driven functionality coupled with mounting device safety and security considerations and new device requirements.”

Although the recession has and is expected to continue to negatively impact the market for embedded and real-time operating systems in 2009, certain vertical markets have been less affected in the short term while others hold the potential to rebound significantly in 2010.

For example, innovation within the medical device industry will drive growth as cart-mounted devices consolidate sensing and computing components into smaller, mobile form factors and device software is placed under greater regulatory scrutiny. By contrast, the retail automation industry market is expected to demonstrate the largest percent decrease from 2008 to 2009 as retail stores combat falling revenues by limiting capital expenditures on new kiosks and POS equipment. However, VDC expects the retail segment to rebound significantly after showing modest growth in 2010 to grow in excess of 20% in 2011 as these companies begin to parlay increased cash flow into investments in enhancing efficiencies and consumer experiences.

VDC expects market participants who – in spite of the current economic climate – remain focused on targeted product development for and marketing to these and other key vertical markets will improve their ability to emerge from this downturn with greater revenue growth and market share.

VDC explores these industry trends and other critical issues affecting this market in the recently released report, Embedded/Real-time and Mobile Application Operating Systems, Volume 1 from Track 1 of VDC’s 2009 Embedded Software Market Intelligence Service.

To view a PDF of the press release, Click Here.


Yesterday, VDC published the 2009 Linux in Embedded Systems report in which a major change in the competitive landscape was announced.
Stay tuned for more highlights from that report.