RTOS Market in Turmoil

Nov 8th, 2011 | By | Category: Embedded Technology, Trend

By Ann Steffora Mutschler
Senior Correspondent, New Tech Press

With engineers clamoring for all things Android  and open-source, the RTOS market is experiencing some major changes – although that depends on whom you ask.

A new entrant to the market, FreeRTOS, garnered the top spot UBM’s 2011 Embedded Market Study.  However, Dr. Jerry Krasner of Embedded Market Forecasters has taken issue with these results.

Micrium moves up in market survey

According to his blog, Krasner pointed out, “In EMF’s 2011 Annual Survey of Embedded Developers…developers reported using an in-house RTOS (20.1%), Android (19.3%), XPE (16.5%) and Windows CE (15.9%). FreeRTOS was used by 0.9% of respondents. From our perspective, the suggestion that FreeRTOS use would exceed that of in-house, Android, XPE, CE, or VxWorks use is beyond any reasonable reality check.”

This of course has set the stage for confusion among all parties, as to which RTOS is really leading the pack.

There is no doubt, however, that internally developed RTOSs come out ahead of commercial ones.
David Blaza, VP at UBM said there is a “stubborn percentage of developers who stick with their home-grown OS and the reason for that is that they invest a lot of time and money in it and they know how it works – it does the job. Engineers are very, very conservative: they don’t really want to change. Just the sheer investment in code is monumental for them.”
But, Chris Rommel, VP at VDC Research pointed out, engineers are slowly shifting away from internally developed RTOSs because, “not every type of embedded type of device needs a robust RTOS.”

Users have stuck with in-house RTOSs mainly due to legacy assets and organizational issues. Plus, the scale of the organization or project comes into play – licensing a commercial RTOS can be cost-prohibitive to some companies, he said.  CE devices don’t have a real-time requirement but there is, however, a big difference between a simple office printer and the cockpit controls of an airplane.  Rommel did remind that it is not always clear cut in terms of OS choice since the value of the legacy work must be consideration in the decision-making process.

Krasner’s data also shows that in-house RTOS are still the biggest chunk of the market. “Year over year over year people have, as far as them writing new stuff, it’s not worth their money but there are an awful lot of people who have legacy stuff that they invested in 10 or 15 years ago and its much cheaper to hang onto that. The in-house stuff is not people saying they are going to spend six months writing their own RTOS – it’s that they have it, it’s legacy, it’s proprietary, its got feature that they want. In their mind, they are economizing what they already have instead of having to go out and pay.”

In terms of weighing various market research report results, UBM’s Blaza believes, “it is all about who is paying the piper, frankly. We just report what we see. We have the largest embedded audience in the world and we just report what we see and we had to put it in,” he said referring to the FreeRTOS results that some have questioned.

At the end of the day, the most critical data for engineering and marketing teams to get a handle on is what they want out of the market research they purchase or commission. As for vendor rankings…that may be best sorted out in a boxing ring.

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