As Microchip ships its two-millionth development kit, microchipDIRECT global sales manager, Martin Warmington, considers how the conventional model for accessing development resources is being redefined
Recent initiatives are changing the way original equipment manufacturers access development tools, bringing greater flexibility through new ownership models. These initiatives include a monthly subscription to access software development tools, a free cloud-based software development platform and the ability to manage multiple development tool licenses within a single account.
Traditionally, OEMs have purchased the appropriate development tools, with the associated code libraries and generators, as they are required for a project. Typically, these tools would be used for a limited time during evaluation or development and once the project was complete, the development tool would simply become a non-recurring engineering cost. Some would surface again, if future projects were based on the same components, otherwise the software could become obsolete.
To overcome the need to make a permanent investment in software development tools destined for short-term use, Microchip has introduced a monthly subscription license. This means customers only pay to access the tools while they are actively using them. The renewable monthly subscription for MPLAB XC Pro compilers can be cancelled without penalties at the end of the development phase and reinstated when the next product reaches the software development stage.
Not only does this help customers minimize and spread their investment in software, it also means they will always access the latest version of the tool. In comparison, OEMs who make an up-front investment in software development tools may find their designers are relying on a legacy development kit, purchased for an earlier design.
Managing development tool licenses can also be simplified by combining the registration information on multiple tools within a customer’s microchipDIRECT account. The development licenses for any hardware or software tool, purchased from microchipDIRECT, can be accessed, reviewed, activated or updated at any time from a single account. This saves the time and frustration of searching for registration information associated to different tools and using multiple websites to manage the licenses.
Another major innovation in providing easy access to development resources is cloud-based development. The MPLAB Xpress integrated development environment is a cloud-based development platform for PIC microcontrollers. By combining an easy graphical user interface with cloud-based access, the platform enables people of any technical ability to get started on PIC-based designs without being tied to a PC.
This initiative is particularly interesting for educators because of its compatibility with Arduino development tools, which enable students and academics to write their own software.
Clearly, the introduction of downloadable subscription-based development tools has gone a long way toward reducing OEM initial outlay on development resources, allowing a lower-cost entry into development. Now it is time for the industry to look at different ways to access these resources, which bring more flexibility to development tool ownership.