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Date: 29-12-14

Its not microcontroller nor FPGA, it is the popular programmable SoC

In embedded systems semiconductor market, a fast growing trend noticed in 2014 is use of devices called programmable SOC, which pack some amount of FPGA fabric as well as ARM Cortex based processor in hard form. The traditional FPGA vendors are launching chips combining both FPGA and ARM Cortex processor, where as traditional microcontroller vendors are adding a piece programmable silicon in their microcontrollers. The greater market success is that of FPGA vendors rather than MCU vendors. The market for programmable silicon integrated microcontrollers/SoCs is estimated to be growing at 20% in 2014.

Cypress’s pSoC is one of such popular programmable chips in the market, though they are not as programmable as FPGA but offers some level of hardware flexibility. Recently Zynq from Xilinx is doing very well. Altera's equivalent to Zynq is its ARRIA family of SoC chips. Microsemi's SmartFusion offers programmable logic with ARM Cortex M3 core. SmartFusion packs embedded microcontroller, programmable analog and field programmable gate array (FPGA). Among the MCU vendors, Microchip's PIC10F32X integrates Configurable Logic Cell (CLC).

Another fast emerging MCU vendor XMOS has announced xCORE-XA, a range of eXtended Architecture xCORE devices that combine the company’s configurable multicore microcontroller technology with an ultra-low-power ARM Cortex-M3 processor. Xilinx recently became investor in XMOS.

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