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E&T finds the embedded systems sector bearing up better than expected. Everybody acknowledged the seriousness of the general electronics downturn but still found this month's Embedded World conference in Nuremberg to be surprisingly busy. In contrast with recent broad-based shows both in the US and Europe, the event experienced a steady level of traffic on all three days. However, a couple of caveats are necessary. First, Germany has a far stronger trade-show culture than just about anywhere else in the West. That's why the country seems to have so many cavernous venues. Second though and perhaps more important an embedded systems show intrinsically reflects tough times. A large chunk of the market is about second-tier technologies, the subsystems that enable sexier end-applications and the controls that underpin complex systems (in the automotive and industrial markets). General demand for more sophisticated engine controls and power management much of it driven by economic and political concerns are giving often standardised microcontroller (MCU)-based application kits a boost in terms of profile and demand. Such products have always been priced low (much of the market goes through the component distribution channel) and the margins have always been comparatively thin. In good times, this can mean that the embedded community looks on other segments of electronics with envy. Today, however, it appears to be in something of a haven. The big announcements at Embedded World certainly reflected this. Almost all were about matching performance appropriate to a tough market with cost efficiency. (7 pages)

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