Over the last decade, a new reality has set in for semiconductor providers. In a variety of application domains like wireless, multimedia, networking and automotive, it has become more and more difficult to sell silicon without the associated software executing on the hardware. Not only has software become the key functional differentiator in many areas, its development now determines project success. If the software is late, the chip running it cannot be sold. The best architected chip design will fail in the market if its associated software is late or insufficient.

Market-research firm International Business Strategies, Inc. claims that today at 90nm the typical overall SoC-related development effort for software has already surpassed the effort for hardware. For 45nm designs in the year 2011, IBS projects that less than 40 percent of the overall development efforts will be spent on hardware. Given the never before seen levels of complexity, 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.

Reprinted in its entirety from ARM IQ Vol. 7, No. 3, 2008