Competing with "Free" Software

Tough Survivors

As I said in the last blog entry, independent embedded C/C++ compiler companies are becoming rare birds. Of the independent companies that support multiple platforms, besides us ImageCraft, there are Green Hills (US), IAR (SE), Cosmic (FR), Rowley (UK), and… um, I think that’s it. Since being bought up, Hiware/Metrowerks primarily target Freescale chips; Hi-Tech clearly will concentrate only on Microchip’s PIC; Keil, despite being an “ARM company,” still sell tools for the 8051, C166 etc. probably because the money is good, but who knows how long that will last?… Most  if not all compiler companies were started by compiler gearheads (who else would be crazy enough to start a compiler company?) a while ago. In fact Cosmic and ImageCraft are tangentially related through our lineage with Whitsemiths. With the different product pricing and the vast number of embedded devices, most of us in fact do not compete directly with each other per se. However, there is …

The GCC Equation 

(dun dun duuuuunnnn…..)

Different embedded compiler companies “die” for different reasons, most likely financially related, and in 2009, the GCC equation must be a factor directly or indirectly. (Click on …more… to continue)

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Being the Target

We don’t talk about our competitors much, if at all, because we believe any potential users can make the best decisions by us providing fully functional demo and they can see how well our tools fit their needs. Our dinosaur logo was something we did on a whim back in 1994. It’s whimisical and it drives right to the heart of our initial rationale for starting the company: we can make a living selling inexpensive compilers. Over the years, our products get more full features so it’s really about “Professional tools that don’t break your bank.”

Back to competitors. We must be doing something right, as we seem to be the targets of every company in competition with us. There is a well known 3-letter company who provided customers with benchmark data comparing their 5 year old compiler release with our then not yet released beta MSP430 compiler (have they no shame?). The guy who makes the cheap AVR compiler from Eastern Europe loves to use us in their release notes and forum postings, and how about that Aussie company who says their PRO M8C compiler is so much better than ours? It’s like we have a bull’s eye as our logo. Why mention all these now? Well, wouldn’t you know it, a seller of GCC ARM compiler with their own IDE now beating us on a 10 lines code fragment saying, see, GCC is really quite good.

Well OK, may be we can improve code generation in this case and that case, but I have expected better behavior from the last author. I have been in communication with him over the years, and I thought that he was a nice chap. While I don’t expect him not to publish whatever he likes, it would have been cordial to bring the matter to me? Oh well…

BTW, all these competitors neglect to mention that in terms of price performance, they can’t touch us. Also, we don’t exactly stand still as we improve our products all the time. Our customers use our $249 compilers to make commercial products everyday. Raw performance isn’t the only thing, usability, support, price performance all go into the equations.

BTW, eMOS has gone into beta testing. A full preemptive robust RTOS that doesn’t break your bank. Hmmm… wonder where I got the idea from? :-)