Software, From Zero To Hero

If you look at software as a necessary evil you’re missing a huge opportunity for differentiation.

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By Tom De Schutter
As the amount of software in electronics applications continues to grow across many markets, from mobile phones to automotive hybrid systems, it is interesting to see how people portray this new-found dependency on software availability. I recently saw a presentation slide with the title: software delays products. Well, that’s one way of looking at it, but it’s a rather pessimistic view. Or, as the saying goes, the glass is half empty.

If you see software as the “necessary evil” that stands between you and your product release, it’s hard to take a step back and realize the true value of software as a key differentiator of new product releases. Although the SoC and the device are still important, people identify their products more and more through the software running on the device. A mobile phone is foremost identified as an Android, iOS or Windows phone. Even in cars, the amount of software apps is growing rapidly and is seen by car manufacturers as a key differentiator against the competition. Actually almost every function in the car is starting to be controlled by microprocessors. Car magazines I read aren’t so fond of this “drive-by-wire” evolution, but that is an entirely different story.

Getting back to our beloved OSes, software apps and the Internet of Things, why fight this change from hardware to software-centric devices? Rather embrace the importance of software and plan appropriately to ensure that software development is not an afterthought but done alongside the hardware development. This also means that software teams need to invest in the right tools and methodology. Enabling earlier software development, before the hardware is available, of course requires an alternative method.

By creating a SystemC virtual prototype of the SoC in development, companies enable their software developers to start much earlier. Software doesn’t have to delay products; virtual prototypes enable parallelization of hardware and software development resulting in better products, faster. I, for one, am looking forward to the new products that our customers are creating by embracing hardware and software co-development. I’d better start writing my wish list.

— Tom De Schutter is senior product marketing manager for Virtualizer Solutions at Synopsys.