Fabless: November 2007 Archives

Microchip Technology, the company that stole the lead in 8bit microcontrollers from Freescale Semiconductor (back in the days when it was part of Motorola), is now going to have a go at the 32bit market. The company has licensed the M4K core from MIPS Technologies rather than give any of its own architectures another workover. Two years ago, the company turned its digital signal processors into general-purpose microcontrollers to try to break into the 16bit market. Now it has another architecture to push.

What does it mean? Basically, the decision provides designers inundated with choices of low- to mid-range 32bit micros with...more choice. Yay.

Now, this is a stunt that Microchip has pulled off once before. But only once. If you rewind time by about 12 years, you can look at the circumstances that gave an aggressive relative newcomer the advantage over a seemingly unassailable market leader. The problem is that, this time around, the circumstances are different. And Microchip has yet to demonstrate that it can turn success in the 8bit market into big sales in the 16bit sector, let alone the even more competitive 32bit space: a market space that a number of chipmakers have made the battleground for control of the future microcontroller business. And they all started earlier.