The Dawn of Embedded Intelligence Means Royalty Free, Smarter Tools

4/28/2003 - Express Logic, Inc., the technology leader in embedded real-time operating systems, introduces The Dawn of Embedded Intelligence at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco. The Dawn of Embedded Intelligence is simply a fundamental evolutionary change in how embedded products of the future are developed.

In the future, run-time royalties will become extinct. Developers will not have to spend endless hours trying to cram large workstation operating systems like Linux into embedded devices. Open source will mean open and understandable source. And simplicity will be the norm rather than the exception.

With The Dawn of Embedded Intelligence, Express Logic brings the future to the present. Having royalty-free licensing, superior technology designed exclusively for embedded applications, complete and easily understood source code, and general ease of use, Express Logic provides designers all the tools necessary to make their next embedded development smarter.

Evolved Licensing - No Royalties
There is simply no place in the future for RTOS run-time royalties. Embedded development has evolved from using off-the-shelf commercial boards to extensive reliance on proprietary hardware. The main reason for this evolutionary change is cost reduction. This is especially true in high-production volume devices such as cell phones and printers. Years ago a $40 per-unit RTOS royalty made sense for a $1,500 commercial board, however, it makes absolutely no sense for today’s $40 cell phone. The trend of cost saving through highly specialized proprietary hardware (including SoCs) is clear and so is the fate of RTOS run-time royalties. Because of this embedded evolution, run-time royalties will soon be extinct.

Express Logic has seen the evolution of embedded development since the beginning and has always licensed its advanced ThreadX RTOS in a simple, royalty-free manner. ThreadX license costs are also very reasonable. A typical license for using ThreadX is on the order of one month’s salary of a senior software engineer.

Highly Evolved Technology
Large operating systems like Linux and VxWorks have no place in tomorrow’s embedded devices. An evolved embedded device does not need the ability to run a compiler from a command shell. Supporting desktop-like applications, multiple user spaces, and virtual memory support are not needed in typical embedded devices. Such unneeded services greatly increase complexity, create unnecessary code bloat, and add tremendous performance penalties.

For example, the needs of a Digital Still Camera (DSC) - a very good example of a rapidly evolving embedded application - are clearly not in-line with the obsolete features of large embedded operating systems. A DSC needs a highly-responsive RTOS, an MS-DOS compatible file system, and in some cases connectivity such as USB, IEEE 1394, or TCP/IP. Because memory is a significant cost component in a DSC, the memory requirements of the application and the RTOS is also highly important. As a result, using Linux or even VxWorks in a DSC application does not make much sense.

Conversely, a DSC design using Express Logic’s highly evolved ThreadX makes perfect sense! Due to its picokernelTM architecture, ThreadX has extremely small context switch overhead and highly optimized interrupt handling. In addition, advanced technical features such as preemption-thresholdTM, fast software timers, and priority inheritance make the development of DSC application code much easier. ThreadX’s picokernel architecture also results in very small memory requirements. The minimal image of ThreadX on a typical DSC processor (ARM or MIPS) is less than 5KBytes. Because of this, using ThreadX in a DSC design translates into either lower production cost or greater image storage capacity. Both of these features are important in the extremely competitive “survival of the fittest” DSC market.

Evolved Source Code
The idea of providing complete source code is an evolved concept. However, products like Linux greatly diminish its benefits. The Linux code base is very complicated. In fact, it is nearly impossible for the average engineer to understand. This is largely due to the overall Linux architecture, the vast number of authors, and the lack of coding standards. Having source code is a good idea, but if it cannot be understood, then it is not very useful. On the other hand, most commercial RTOS products like VxWorks do not provide any source code. This leaves developers completely in the dark. Both of these approaches are very primitive, and are destined for extinction in the future.

In sharp contrast, Express Logic’s source code approach is highly evolved. All Express Logic products are designed and implemented with full source code licensing in mind. The product source code is easily understood, is highly structured, and follows strict coding conventions. In fact, many customers have adopted the same coding standards for their own application software. Express Logic’s evolved source code policy is a clear advantage for the embedded developer.

Evolved Ease-Of-Use
At the end of the day, ease-of-use often determines the usefulness of an embedded RTOS. If an RTOS is too difficult to port to customer’s proprietary hardware or if the API is unmanageable, evolution will make that RTOS extinct. This is the greatest weakness of Linux. Customizing and porting Linux to a new embedded target is difficult. The problem is not that Linux is a bad operating system, the real problem is that Linux is designed to be a desktop/server operating system – not an RTOS. Migrating Linux or any desktop operating system is very difficult and will quite likely require the assistance of an expert. Dealing with VxWorks is easier than Linux, but it too is still orders of magnitude more difficult than it should be.

One of the best ThreadX quality is its ease-of-use. Through many years of experience in the embedded market, Express Logic has evolved its entire product offering with ease-of-use and simplicity in mind. Developers using ThreadX are up and running in a matter or hours – not the months it takes with large operating system products. Furthermore, migrating to new hardware platforms is also streamlined.

“We are very excited to introduce The Dawn of Embedded Intelligence at this year’s Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco,” said William Lamie, President of Express Logic. “This event will help showcase the truly intelligent solutions we provide to our current and future customers!”

About Express Logic and ThreadX
Headquartered in San Diego, CA, Express Logic offers the most advanced run-time solution for deeply embedded applications, including the popular ThreadX RTOS, the high-performance TCP/IP stack NetXTM, and the embedded MS-DOS file system FileXTM. All products from Express Logic include full source-code and have no run-time royalties. For more information about Express Logic solutions, please browse to, call 1-888-THREADX, or email inquires to

ThreadX is a registered trademark of Express Logic, Inc., NetX and FileX are trademarks of Express Logic, Inc. VxWorks is a registered trademark of Wind River Systems (NASDAQ: WIND).

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