Monday, February 15, 2016

Microchip takes on mbed with cloud-based development tool

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Microchip has launched a cloud-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that will take on ARM's mbed online development tool and community directly.  

The MPLAB Xpress online development platform is an easy way to get started with PIC microcontrollers with zero downloads, sign-in or setup needed to start designing across the range of devices from the entry level 8bit through the MIPS 32bit controllers.   

The free, cloud-based IDE brings the most popular features of the award-winning MPLAB X IDE to Internet-connected PCs, laptops or tablets. A key factor is that MPLAB Xpress offers a comprehensive feature set, including a library of Microchip-validated code examples, interface to MPLAB Code Configurator (MCC) 3.0 for GUI-based MCU peripheral setup and automatic code generation, integrated MPLAB XC compilers, support for programmer/debugger hardware, and 10 GB of secure online storage with a myMicrochip account.  Users can easily migrate their projects to the full, downloadable MPLAB X IDE.  Additionally, the MPLAB Xpress Community enables developers to share their code, design ideas and knowledge.

Microchip's MPLAB Xpress cloud-based development tool 
Cloud-based hardware development is supported by connecting any USB-enabled PC, laptop or tablet to tools such as the MPLAB Xpress Evaluation Board.  This development board features an integrated programmer, a PIC16F18855 MCU and a mikroBUS header for system expansion with MikroElektronika’s boards.  The IDE also supports Microchip’s Curiosity Development Board, a cost-effective tool with integrated programmer and debugger, as well as expansion options for add-on boards and external connectivity.  The online IDE can also be used with Microchip’s PICkit 3 In-Circuit Debugger/Programmer, which provides programming and debugging capabilities for over 1,000 PIC MCUs.

Like other Web-based tools, there is no installation time and it enables users to build an entire application within minutes. Users can open a browser and quickly generate code via the integrated MPLAB Code Configurator which integrates with MPLAB Xpress: this is a feature which is not available with any other cloud-based IDE. Users can then test that code with the included simulator, compile the code and then programme and debug their target MCU.

The MPLAB Xpress Community allows users to get their project started quickly, solve problems, and inspire others by sharing ideas and knowledge.  The “Examples” section provides easy, searchable access to MCU code developed and validated by Microchip engineers, such as setup, basic functions and advanced projects.  Designers can add to this knowledge base by making any of their stored projects accessible to the rest of the user community.  
Microchip is also looking to build a community around the tools with a dedicated MPLAB Xpress User Forum and Wiki are also available.

How Atmel's ARM-based devices will be integrated into this environment remains to be seen after Microchip's acquisition of the company.

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