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Monday, November 05, 2007

It’s the tools, stupid! Microchip moves to 32bit with MIPS

Low cost microcontroller maker Microchip is moving to 32bits using the M4K architecture from MIPS Technologies.

This is a key move for both Microchip, whose PIC 8bit and 16bit microcontrollers are used in millions of places, and for MIPS, that has been missed in the early coverage of the story.

The key is the tools environment. Microchip gets a ready made ecosystem of debuggers and simulators, all of which are much more important in the 32bit space as the point of going to 32bits is to use off the shelf operating systems and readily available protocol stacks etc. These are all available for MIPS already, which is a stunning advantage for Microchip.

But there is also a huge benefit for MIPS, as there is now a tremendous potential installed base of designers who want to use Microchip controllers. This will work in two ways – it encourages and further strengthens the ecosystem and tool development as there are now hundreds of thousands of potential customers for the third party embedded software developers and for the tool vendors. Suddenly the MIPS ecosystem is now hugely viable. That plays into MIPS’ system on chip market, as a successful Microchip design can go to a single chip custom ASIC chip or semi-custom ASSP chip without changing the application software, providing an easier route to lower costs and higher volumes.

Microchip is using the M4K low end variant of the MIPS architecture which was announced last week along with a wide range of analogue peripherals to go around the core from MIPS' earlier acquisition of ChipIdea.

Industry comment to follow……