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Welcome Øyvind Janbu, CTO of Energy Micro!
- Øyvind went to school in Trondheim where there are multiple schools and many tech companies based around them.
- Many early members, including the CEO, were part of ChipCon, which was later purchased by Texas Instruments.
- Energy Micro (EM) is mostly employee owned.
- Since EM is a fabless semiconductor company, the processing (manufacturing) is done primarily at TSMC.
- “Le Sense” is an homage to the movie Pulp Fiction, in the same scene where they mention the Royale with Cheese.
- Energy Micro has a VP of Simplicity, dedicated to making things easier for the customer.
- The radios coming from EM are a variety of radio standards, including Bluetooth Low Energy.
- The royalties of an ARM core are confidential, but ARM has more information about licensing in their annual reports.
- Some of the newest parts in the EM Gecko family use the ARM M0+ core, which many vendors are promoting right now for low power.
- The EM products have some unusual features, like DMA from an ADC while in sleep mode.
- Energy Micro publishes their longevity guarantee right on their website for all to see.
- Chips are available through distributors like Digikey and have been part of their strategy from day one.
Many thanks to Øyvind for being on our show and giving us more insight into chip companies. He was really straightforward with his answers and we hope you learned a lot from him. Please leave any additional questions in the comments and we’ll try to make sure the proper people answer them.
David Kronstein says
I’m very curious as to why modifications to the ARM source code wouldn’t be allowed. Why would ARM care about modifications to the source? Perhaps they won’t provide any technical support for modified versions?
David Kronstein says
With some simple math, an ARM license (per shipped core) cost cannot be more than about $0.17 on average. ARM’s Q4 2011 revenue was $217.0M, and I saw a figure of 5 billion cores shipped per year, so that sets the upper limit of the average license cost. Quite far from the fractions of a penny that Chris said, but perhaps some cores are cheaper, or the NRE cost is dominant.
That would be so if ARM made it’s money purely from royalties on each core, and charged the same amount. I believe there is an up-front charge, and the royalty drops as the number of chips produced increases. They also make money from IP other than ARM cores.
This excellent interview made me think – I wonder if Steve Furber might be interested in chatting? He hasn’t been with ARM for quite a few years, but he has many stories from the early days, and is active in academic research now.
I enjoyed listening to this episode very, very much, especially because it’s rare in these times, that a new startup is founded and recognized in this part of the semiconductor industry with such a tough competition. Excellent! Øyvind has been a great pleasure to listen to (also of course both hosts!).
I also checked the EM website. I found out, that some of the dev kits are only available through global distributors (Digikey, Mouser) or local distributors, but not directly from EM. This would give some sort of personal touch to it. Not all DVKs are available from distribution (for example: EFM32GG-STK3700) unfortunately (no info using EM’s website, I’m from Germany).
On the other side, I checked for available realtime OSs to support EFM’s features. While there are some to support the general ARM Cortex-M3, the features for energy management are supported only in some special cases:
1) using commercial compilers (like the IAR) and commercial RTOSs or
2) specially trimmed RTOS (Ref. tickless RTOS: great master thesis on that here: http://www.freertos.org/Interactive_Frames/Open_Frames.html?http://interactive.freertos.org/entries/20291196-energy-optimized-port-of-freertos-6-for-efm32) also using IAR.)
For a successful microcontroller, there is much more than the hardware itself, it’s the whole ecosystem.
What made me really thinking about EM was the whole company credo which Øyvind explained in a some detail. I guess, that’s a great vision which in needed for being a successful and passionate company.
Thank you very much for such a great episode. Maybe you can invite Øyvind back some time later.
Øyvind Janbu says
Thanks for a great show, thanks for the good questions and also for the feedback afterwards! 🙂
David: Regarding modifications to the ARM source code, I can also only speculate, but of course ARM runs a huge amount of verification on their cores, and don’t want their customers to introduce bugs into their IP. 🙂
Thomas: Regarding kit availability, I know that the GG kits will show up at distributors very shortly. 🙂
Again, thanks for your time and feedback!
Carmen Parisi says
Was catching up on back episodes this week and I think this one might have just won the spot of my new favorite episode. Great Job guys, keep it up!