In a variety of application domains, such as wireless, multimedia, and networking, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sell silicon without the associated software executing on the hardware. Not only has software become the key functional differentiator, its development now determines project success.

Traditional approaches of developing embedded software for chips are running out of steam; a new era of software development has begun in which the majority of embedded software is developed with virtual platforms, in contrast to traditional software development on hardware boards.

This paper examines the impact of the transition to software dominating the development effort, and explains how the software design flow must be changed now that software has become a critical success factor for so many designs. Finally, it explains how virtual platforms streamline the development process.