A recently published Forrestor report identifies efficiency and cost reduction as the two key strategies that companies are leveraging to weather the current economic storm. All businesses, even those that are doing well, are looking at ways to manage their costs in the face of ongoing economic uncertainty. Projects are being scrutinized for ROI and frequently, a smaller staff is forced to make hard decisions about where to put resources.
In this changed economic climate, companies are increasingly looking at solutions like .NET Micro Framework to reduce their development costs, improve operational efficiencies, and achieve greater product differentiation through innovation. This increased interested in the .NET Micro Framework is evidenced by the substantial increase in website visits, SDK downloads, and business inquiries we have seen in the past couple of months.
From the very beginning, a major goal of the Micro Framework team has been to reduce the cost of embedded development. In the past, the choice has been to save money on the bill of materials (BOM) or on developer productivity and time to market. You could save money on the BOM by using a smaller processor. But all too often, the result was that you were burdened with poor tools and lower productivity and a longer time to market. Alternatively, you could develop a higher-end device with more features and better tools but pay for that on every device sold.
With the Micro Framework, we reduce both barriers by bringing desktop productivity tools to a set of smaller processors. As a result, you can lower your BOM while utilizing the same world-class tools that have proven so efficient on the desktop. At the same time, you can take advantage of the rich feature set offered by the .NET Micro Framework. To give you an example of the kind of productivity increases that we are seeing, the average embedded project takes about 13 months. With the Micro Framework, we have seen projects go from concept to ready to ship in as little as three months.
In our research, we have found companies are doing most of their innovation on 32-bit microprocessors. To support this rapidly-rising market, we have focused our efforts on the 32-bit processor space. However, we are continuing to work on reducing footprint and increasing performance to broaden the applicability to the platform while not sacrificing any of the productivity improvement. (Hint: Watch in the future for changes that bring the framework to even smaller platforms with higher performance.)
Connectivity Drives Innovation
There is another way in which the .NET Micro Framework is particularly relevant at this point in time. We have always focused on the connected device scenarios. (Hint: Look for this to be a significant focus in upcoming releases.) As with any set of circumstances, the current economic times bring a number of new opportunities. As companies reach for more efficiency, smart connected devices become more and more attractive. How many service calls can be reduced or eliminated by having devices report on when they need service and if so, exactly what service they need? How much energy can we save by having smarter devices collaborating with each other? I believe that Web Services and other modern computing models that are provided by the Micro Framework will play an enabling role in connecting these devices.
So, if you or your company is looking at some of these opportunities to increase efficiency by applying intelligent devices, please let us know how we can help. Tell us what your biggest challenges are. We would love to hear those scenarios and there is more in the pipeline intended to support them. By working with you, we can be sure that we produce the best possible framework and the lowest possible cost to you.
Product Unit Manager