ARM had not one but two articles in the NYTimes this week (same author, Ashlee Vance)…
ARM, which designs the low-power chips that go into just about every cellphone sold today, commands a prime position when it comes to one of the next major technological revolutions. This is the so-called Internet of Things, when all sorts of everyday objects will have tiny chips placed inside them and gain the ability to process information and talk to the Webâ€¦
Dealing with hand-held devices and cellphones forced ARM to operate under severe power restrictions. It chased milliwatts, while Intel chased horsepower.â€¨ARMâ€™s low-power chips are echoed in its laidback culture. Mr. Muller recalled an early meeting in a Cambridge pub where the companyâ€™s first employees plotted ARMâ€™s future. The engineers were asked to raise their hands if they wanted to become executives.
â€œWho cares about the PC?â€ Mr. Flautner said. â€œI would love to lose mine. Now, itâ€™s all about penetrating these weird markets that we canâ€™t even fully fathom yet.â€
Called mbed, the research effort puts a kit for a microcontroller â€“ sort of a basic, low-power computer on a chip â€“ in the hands of engineers and hobbyists for about $59. Then, ARM provides a set of software tools for bringing that microcontroller to life and linking it with other interesting items like accelerometers, gyroscopes, cameras, displays and thermometers.
Simon Ford, the ARM researcher leading mbed, said that the package of hardware and software he had created should open microcontrollers up to a new audience by removing some of the technical headaches associated with programming the chips.
The mbed device can plug straight into a U.S.B. port on a computer, appearing as a flash drive to the PC. People can then create programs or download existing modules from the mbed Web site and get off and running in a matter of minutes.
There’s a follow up post on Wired “Will the Internet of Things Be Open or Closed?“:
At some point in the future, many more everyday objects will have tiny embedded chips that can communicate with networks. But just as weâ€™re debating net neutrality and the value of the open web vs closed client applications, we will have to decide who will control the internet of things, too.
â€¦Free and open-source vs. ready-for-anyone-to-use out-of-the-box: weâ€™ve been down this road many times before. I doubt this argument will have a clear winner and loser, but itâ€™s important that itâ€™s clearly framed and articulated now, before any one approach gets locked-in as the default option.
….and also a pretty passionate debate over on Adafruit.
mbed requires an online compiler, so that you are dependent on them forever. You cannot do anything without using their online site, ever. We would like to see mbed change this policy, release some open source hardware (they like Arduino shields, why not join in the community?)
We like the hardware in the mbed, the cortex series is great (itâ€™s why we carry an ARM Cortex M3 board now) â€“ but the ARM complier used with mbed costs about $5,000 so maybe it will never be anywhere but online. This is why we really like the ARM dev board we carry, itâ€™s OSHW, the firmware libraries are all BSD licensed, you can use an OSS tool chain and like the mbed you can drag and drop a compiled program. Weâ€™re also considering carrying a lpc1768 version of the board (let us if youâ€™d like that!)
Makers weigh in, post in the comments!