Well they will be in space soon! The business press is abuzz about Intel acquiring software company Wind River Systems. Wind River’s claim to fame is a Unix derivative embedded operating system VxWorks. Although it is widely used in all sorts of terrestrial applications its most famous use is by NASA. VxWorks is what runs the Mars rovers, and many other NASA space based projects. You can read an interview that I did with Mike Delman of Wind River Here.

The deal is reported to be worth $884 million. But don’t expect to be seeing any Intel CPU’s in space any time soon. Space is a pretty harsh environment and the average chip could not handle the radiation, NASA actually uses a specially hardened CPU known as a Rad6000.

VxWorks is no ordinary Operating System, there are no blue screens of death, this Operating System is designed to take punishment and keep on ticking. It can be patched on the fly, and should it fail it will automatically bring itself back to life in one of a variety of modes depending on the failure type.

Size is another important aspect, most renditions of VxWorks will operate in less than a megabyte, eat your heart out Microsoft.

Wind River have some of the smartest programmers around, these guys know how to make bullet proof software, no buffer overflows, no deadly embraces, no infinite loops. In other words they have everything that Windows doesn’t!

I see this as a very strategic move for Intel. This will put them at the leading edge of the embedded system market. And this market is colossal, embedded systems are everywhere, from the factory floor, hospital equipment, you Honda Civic, your cell phone, you name it and there is an embedded system involved.

This is also a great opportunity for Wind River, you can expect to hear a lot more about VxWorks in the trade press in coming months.

Simon Barrett

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