In my opinion, a great CPU family needs to be coupled with a great ecosystem/development environment. If you can’t develop/prototype, it makes the engineer’s job too hard, and in too many cases, he’ll move on to a lower performance architecture simply because he can get to market quicker and more easily produce future generations.
A good example of such an ecosystem comes from Microchip, with its MPLAB ICD 4 environment. Based on a faster processor and increased RAM, the in-circuit programming and debugging development tool works with the company’s popular PIC microcontroller (MCU) and dsPIC digital signal controller families. The enhancements are added without removing any of the features of the previous generation tool.
The MPLAB ICD 4’s speed improvement comes from the use of a 300-MHz, 32-bit MCU and a 200-Mbyte buffer memory. Other features include a 1.2- to 5.5-V target voltage range, a configurable interface speed, and JTAG debugging capability. The MPLAB ICD 4, aka the DV164045, sells for $249.95.