It’s no secret that I’ve been somewhat critical of the Renesas Synergy platform. The company has gone out of its way to ensure a great experience for developers by teaming with some of the industry giants to provide tools, an operating system, and so on. But at the same time, they’re essentially locking users in to using the products from those third parties.
My first reaction to that is, “I don’t like it.” But when I thought about it for a while, and had the Renesas folks explain it to me again, something clicked. If you think back to the early days of the PC – boy those were fun times, weren’t they? – there were two distinct camps. On one hand, you had the Microsoft camp, which was akin to the Wild West. Developers from all over were trying to come up with applications, hoping to gain even a tiny percentage of a huge market.
There were obvious pros and cons to that approach. On one hand, the choices were more than abundant, and the prices were great from an end-user’s perspective. And from the developers’ perspective, they could afford to keep the prices down because the volumes, at least the potential volumes, were huge. On the down side, the lack of regulations meant that the applications or board-level products didn’t always work as expected, or in extreme cases, didn’t work at all.
Then you have the other side of the coin: Apple (or in this case, Renesas). Theirs was a closed system. Only a very select few were allowed to play there, and the number of hoops one was required to jump through made it an arduous process at best. However, while the add-ons were generally pricey, they always worked and worked well. So like Apple, Renesas is telling you which tools and OS you need to operate with. However, they are pretty much guaranteeing you a good experience, especially if you’re building a product for the Internet of Things (IoT).
Part two of this story follows similar lines; Renesas is taking an Apple-like approach to third-party applications and services that run with its Synergy platform. It’s called the Verified Software Add-on (VSA) program. This program – in my eyes at least – is comparable to Apple’s App Store. To be eligible to have your software or “apps” placed in the VSA, you have to get past the Renesas certification team. In the long run, that’s good for everyone, because developers will get a good experience, but the process may take longer and may cost a little more.
The technologies you can expect to see in the program, at least initially, will include things that are vital to the IoT, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, LTE, security, and cloud connectivity. Those products will come from vendors who already have products in the works. They include embedded software developers like Alpwise, Bug Labs, Cypherbridge Systems, Clarinox, Express Logic, FDI, Gainspan, Icon Labs, IS2T, Serious Integrated, and Skkynet. Members of the VSA program can be assured that once their software is certified by Renesas, it’ll remain compatible with the platform as it evolves.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, whether developers embrace the “pre-approved” nature of the third-party applications, or if they rebel and choose competitive architectures.