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Where Have All the RTOS Vendors Gone?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 by Michael Barr

I’m pleased to report that the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) is alive and well here in Boston this year. This success is despite the recession and industry trends that have caused some other technical trade shows to fold this year. (That’s right, I’m talking about you Software Development Conference.) There’s even apparently going to be an ESC Chicago in 2010!

However, the RTOS vendors are largely and notably absent from this year’s event. Of the major players, only Enea and Green Hills have booths.

Wind River has long been fickle about making camp at ESC, of course, with yearly vascillations between the largest booth at the show and none at all. Their new parent Intel has acted similarly regarding pitching chips to embedded system designers over the years. Thus it is not too surprising to me that neither are here while they sort through the post-acquisition marketing shifts and tactical planning.

But where are the booths for Micrium, Mentor (Nucleus and VRTX), Keil, QNX, Express Logic, LynuxWorks, Quadros and the others this year? Are Microsoft, Linux, Enea, and Green Hills eating your lunch?

I can’t help but connect their absence with the five year downward trend of intention to buy a “Commercial OS” I noted in TechnInsight’s 2009 Embedded Market Study. But is that simply because no one is marketing RTOSes to developers any more?

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6 Responses to “Where Have All the RTOS Vendors Gone?”

  1. Stephen Martin says:

    Trade shows are not a cost-effective way to reach customers any more — at least not for RTOSes. The Internet is a 24/7 trade show for engineers.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Excellent comment by Stephen. I would agree with him. I manage global sales for a recognized software provider. These trade shows, for software vendors, and I'm sure other companies, have been mostly an opportunity to meet with partners and other industry contacts. I know what my competitors are doing based on what is on their website, from press releases, and from prospect engagements. I don't need to get that from physical gatherings anymore.Customer traffic at booths and quality of leads has continued to decline in the last 10 years, in my experience. Most engineers really don't have an interest in talking to sales people or booth babes (only to gawk). In checking around, I figured out that for customers that could afford to attend, they were mostly going to the training sessions. In the case of RTC shows I attended around the U.S. in the last couple of years, 50% to 60% of customers that come just attend the training and leave (I got this information from the promoters on this fact). Like Stephen said, engineers that are actively shopping for software would rather go to the website(s) of the companies they interested in and gather the information they need to narrow down their search. It is only then that they will contact the RTOS vendor to take it to the next level of discussion and enquiry. With software, customers can download evaluations. Everything can be done electronically. I have customers around the world that were acquired with no need to visit with them in person. Most engineers are comfortable with that. They have the software they have downloaded and and see what they are getting themselves. it is not like hardware. The barriers to investigation are nil.In my opinion, the cost of conferences are not worth the investment for software vendors in the Internet age. That's why I think you will see continued decline of vendor presence at these shows.

  3. David Blaza says:

    Completely disagree with these 2 posts (in the spirit of full disclosure I run the Embedded Systems Conferences), the web is a great place to start product research but who in their right mind would make a critical business decision like choosing an RTOS vendor without meeting the major players face to face? ESC is not just a "trade show", the conference speakers include some of the world’s best embedded designers and consultants and engineers come to really learn. Many vendors have training sessions at ESC with direct access to product managers and our "build your own embedded system" class has been a huge hit because it is truly hands on. I see the attendee list from ESC and the quality of companies who send their engineers to ESC speaks for itself. It’s naive to think that the web will replace face to face meetings, especially in a complex industry like ours. With training, hands on classes and vendor presentations a day spent at ESC is more productive than 10 days surfing the web! The trade show industry has been around for 1,000 years(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leipzig_Trade_Fair ) because the simple truth is people do business with people (not web pages).

  4. Paul N. Leroux says:

    Disclosure: I'm a QNX employee.QNX has seen double-digit growth year after year after year, so it's hard to believe that anyone is eating QNX's lunch. Is there competition out there? Absolutely. But I wouldn't have it any other way, as it makes my job far more interesting. 🙂 ESC Boston is a good venue (in fact, a QNX engineer delivered a talk at ESC Boston on Tuesday), but there are many other venues that also allow RTOS vendors to meet with developers. Some of these venues are "live"; others are online. QNX, like many of its competitors, actively takes advantage of both. Suggesting that a lack of a booth at just one of these venues is indicative of some major trend is reading a little too much into the situation. Cheers,- Paul

  5. Alec says:

    Micrium was indeed present at Boston ESC. We were happy to host them in our booth (STMicroelectronics). Jean was doing daily signings for his new book, uC/OS-III, and book/kit giveaways, including an eval board with our STM32.

  6. Anonymous says:

    According to research from Marketing Sherpa, virtual meetings have increased 37% as an information resource during the first half of 2009, while face-to-face events have declined 30% during the same period.

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