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Evolution of Embedded Devices Driving Increasing Use of x86 Processors

Just about a year ago we posted a blog titled “Taking a Bite Out of Apple’s Playbook”.  This post included an exhibit on the use of ARM architecture in embedded development projects. We recently looked at other architectures including x86, PowerPC, and MIPS.  Here’s what the data shows for 2007 and 2010 for x86.

The use of x86 architectures continues to increase within embedded development projects, however, at a much slower pace than what was observed and reported with the use of ARM architecture.  VDC expects that a large part of the increase is attributable to the evolution of embedded devices where a wide-range of PC-like devices (industrial, retail automation, medical, etc.) are now being developed by OEMs. These device types might not be resource constrained nor have real-time requirements that would have typified many embedded devices in the past and driven OEMs to select a smaller footprint or more deterministic RTOS. Instead they incorporate embedded operating systems such as Windows Embedded Enterprise (OSs originally designed for PCs), Windows Embedded Standard, and others that require an x86 processor.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see the impact, if any, on the future use of x86 architecture in development projects as a result of Microsoft developing future iterations of its desktop OSs for ARM architectures.  Both companies have had a long-term business relationship prior to their July 2010 announcement with Microsoft’s Windows Embedded CE/Compact -based operating systems including Windows Mobile/Phone 7 supporting the ARM architecture in device designs. The bigger question is how OEMs will respond when Windows 8 and the resulting Embedded Enterprise/Standard versions become available with support for ARM?

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