When software meets hardware:
Excellence in embedded-software
Embedded software has become essential to the success of most types of new
semiconductors. Yet some semiconductor companies still resist the idea that they are
selling not just hardware but also, increasingly, software. A blueprint can help in
better integrating them in your organization.
Harald Bauer and
For many years, software was an afterthought for
come quickly. Through work in the wireless-
semiconductor companies. When software
handset sector, it was observed that more than 60
did get attention, it was limited mostly to basic
percent of engineers are engaged in software
firmware operating the integrated circuits (ICs)
development or testing, compared with roughly
that the companies produced. But in the last
40 percent three years ago and less than
five years, as hardware has become increasingly
20 percent in 2008.
commoditized and customers demand
shorter time to market, the importance of
embedded software has grown.
Companies undergoing the transformation from
hardware- to software-centric business models
typically find that several aspects of their existing
At one time, hardware designers were the
processes lead to productivity losses, quality
dominant class of engineers in most semiconductor
problems, rework due to late defect detection, and
R&D organizations. Now, given the rise of
budget overruns. These include lack of
mobile devices, most IC designers employ more
modularization, manual testing regimens, and
software developers than hardware engineers.
hardware-led development processes that
In consumer-facing markets, that evolution has
do not fit the agile-development model required
for software. Several ways to overcome these chal-
firmware, should be closely linked to the hardware.
lenges have been identified, but the three