When you go to most conferences, you are lucky to get a keynote speaker that will do more than give you the smooth sell about their company's latest product. At the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC), you get Ronald Mallett to talk about time travel.
ESC is not your normal conference. It's a time for the most extreme niche technology vendors to show their wares. The one (if only) thing vendors have in common is the need to educate the engineering community about why a particular technology matters and how to apply it.
Classroom sessions are abundant and well attended. The engineers that put together the smallest systems on the planet are a unique bunch, and their needs are unique as well.
When I scan then educational tracks being offered, a surprising theme emerges – Android.
You can see a quick off-the-cuff analysis I did of keywords present in the classroom sessions' descriptions (available here). For clarity, I omitted a few generalities like 'Embedded' and 'Session.'
'Android' appears 8 times, more than Security, Safety, Multicore, Debugging or Drivers – the typical bread and butter of the embedded community.
Note that Android almost tied Linux. Microsoft (or Windows Embedded) is not even mentioned.
What a feat Google has performed: two years after being released, Android is where the action is at in the mainstream communities and in the extreme communities.
Also notice that hardware is almost absent – and this is a conference where NAND memory vendors are taking out booths.
So you have embedded system developers now focusing on two key operating systems. It is not hard to see that a new generation of engineers is no longer interested in re-inventing the wheel, as long as the wheel fits. What a shift this is; twenty years ago embedded systems meant you were writing your own OS.
Dell's message to ESC participants has always been to consider off-the-shelf hardware before going custom, as the resources it takes to duplicate a Dell product could be much better spent on innovation in your area of expertise. But before the Streak, we were relegated to the PC form-factor with one or two Atom offerings.
With the announcement of the Streak, Dell has stepped into the true embedded arena with an off-the-shelf product that meets the size, mobility and power needs of a huge new market. We are already seeing OEM customers interested in replacing their small integrated displays with the Streak – the idea of building their own hardware from scratch makes less and less sense.
Now Google is doing the same thing for Operating Systems – really pushing the specialists to evaluate what makes them special now and what will make them special in the next ten years.
Do you think the trend will continue? Is Android the new "it kid" in operating systems or are they in it for the long haul?