Better AVR Windows Debugger

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This is to let all AVR users know that we plan to offer a better WINDOWS AVR debugger to replace STUDIO.

The first release of the debugger, will just take Imagecraft C compiler output and allow In-Circuit-Debugging, the 2nd release will control our ICE, and the third release subject to customer demand, will include control of ATMEL ICE200. We plan to issue a FREE trial version for download from the web to allow customers to try it out, but it will require the special FLASH debug circuit, so you will either need to obtain one of our 3in1 kits or mod your (STK ??) boards. The reason for doing a special debug circuit is it allows the size of the debug code running on the AVR to be the smallest possible, allowing more space for your own app. Our current trials indicate the debugger will consume less than 255 bytes. A full version of the debugger will be available for purchase for minimum dollars. I hope that AVR users are prepared to pay a little for tools that work, hopefully ATMEL will also see the sense in this. Our IDE is a true WIN32 bit application, and has a proper C debugging interface, with full structure display. We will put a beta version on the AVRfreaks web site when it close to release, so that you can try it out. On the ISP side of things, we recommend using the Imagecraft ISP programming built-into their IDE, which is compatible with our 3in1 boards/ICE. We use Lanconelli's ISP circuit, and recommend his software also.

Our debugger will not have a simulator (no need if you have an ISD). If anyone wants to write a DLL to get it working with GNU C Compiler output, please contact us.

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Hi,

I think this will benefit the AVR community. Good luck!

One thing I didn't understand, though:

>> I hope that AVR users are prepared to pay a little for tools that work, hopefully ATMEL will also
>> see the sense in this.

What do you mean here?

Best regards,

Morten, AVR tech. support, Atmel FAE

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I think ATMEL are making a mistake by getting everyone hooked using FREE tools (STUDIO) and also offering ICE at zero profit. The reason is simple, the cost of offering FREE tools, must be made back by charging customers extra for the chips. It also means their is no incentive to provide quality tools for your chips by independant tool suppliers and so your customers become totally dependant on ATMEL (I am not so sure this is a good thing). According to what they taught me on my MBA course, it is better for companies to stick to their CORE COMPETENCIES (ATMEL have designed a good CPU - AVR), your tools though do have problems and have a lot of catching up to do compared with what is available for other CPU families e.g MCS51 market, which is dominated by independant tools suppliers. Competition creates quality and the market dictates the price of tools. If ATMEL see sense they will realise that the AVR will gain wider acceptance if their is a good choice in tools from a wider variety of tool suppliers. No Independant TOOL Company is going to invest time/effort in supporting AVR unless their is some return to be made from the tools they sell. So I suggest ATMEL should consider charging a reasonable price for tools instead of offering things for FREE/zero profit, you can then charge less for your chips (and remain focused on what you are good at chip design/manufacture). You will then create better tool choice as more independant tool suppliers will enter the AVR market, which will be much better for the AVR development community. It takes a long time to create a good tool set, we have spent several man years on the WINDOWS Debugger, we will have to charge a small amount to re-coup our investment. Of course if ATMEL would like to offer a contribution to our R&D costs then we would not turn it down and we can charge customers less, what do others think ? (over to you....).

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Hi,

Thank you for clarifying. I haven't got a business degree (formal or otherwise) so I'll leave the commenting to the guys who have :-)

Best regards,

Morten, AVR tech. support, Atmel FAE

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Hi Morten, hi "Flash Designs",

"According to what they taught me on my MBA course".....
.....it is better to ask the customers and NOT other companies trying to change foreign business policies. (And please post with a name, it cuts the "distance")

Christoph

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I think history is a better predictor of future success than business administration theory. The AVR line is successful because Atmel designed a complete product that encompassed production and development. To break the bond between chips and tools would destroy what makes the AVR great.

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I remember back in the 70's when Sony came out with the Beta-Max video tape recorder. Sometime later JVC came out with the VHS recorder. At the time I was repairing Ampex reel-to-reel recorders, Sony U-matic and Sony and Panasonic 1/2" recorders.

No question about it the Beta-Max had a better picture quality than the VHS but the VHS cost less than the Beat-Max. Anyone bought a Beta-Max recently? What happened? PRICE!

Like Clinton said during his first presidential campain, "It's the ecomomy stupid!"
What did Bush campain for, "Lower Taxes".

It all just about boils down to money.

Why buy a cow when milk is so cheap?

Yes, Studio has its short commings. Not even your debugger will be perfect. Many companies create docs in PDF format because the Acrobat Reader is free.

That is one reason Atmel is taking over from Microchip. Many tools are free and the others are at a bargain price. Ther bread and butter business is not tools but chips. Yes the dog, chips, wag the tail, tools.

But good luck, you will encourage Atmel tools folks,
Mike

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This is a reply to David of Flash Designs,

Hi David,

I'm a member of the marketing team pushing the Atmel AVR Microcontrollers, and I thought I would do you the honors of providing my comments on a FREE/low cost tools offering.

Disclaimer: I am not a professor in any of the disiplines I comment on here. But I believe the history of our tools offering is an interesting story that deserves to be told.

The beginning
The reason Atmel first decided to provide development tools is based on a historical catch 22 between supply and demand. As we introduced the first AVR microcontrollers, there did not exist a developed customer base. Thus, motivating the various tools vendors to support a brand new 8-bit microcontroller familiy proved impossible. And with not even an evaluation board available, there was not much a potential customer could do with the samples. So we had to make the first evaluation board ourselves. The Simulator, Emulator and programmer all came to life the same way in a matter of 3 months back in mid 1996. When the first AVR MCU hit the market, we were offering a complete tools package of superior quality. And it cost us less than US$ 100k to develop and produce the first 1000 kits. The only tool we didn't have the necessary knowledge to build was the C-compiler, which we paid in excess of US$ 1 million to have IAR Systems develop.

Entry levels
Turning to look at the mechanics of client behaviour (it's a marketing term meaning "how customers behave and think"), we find predominantly small and medium sized customers stick with their choise of MCU architecture due to the high cost of entry. A company, no matter it's size, needs every engineer involved in product development and production to be set up with a minimum of tools: The SW engineers, HW engineers and production engineers all need to share or own their own compiler, assembler, evaluation board, simulator, programmer, emulator, adapters, and debugging monitors. And very few tools are compatible across MCU architectures. So switching to a new MCU architecture requires a whole department to write off the entire investment made on tools, and purchase a completely new set of tools for their engineering staff. To lower this entry level, it has been Atmel's policy to provide evaluation kits and emulators that are so inexpensive that even a student can afford a complete development toolkit. It simply eliminates the entry barrier for most of our potential clients.

Cost distribution
This leads to the question of cost: Who pays for the non-profit tools you buy from Atmel? Answer: Atmel's large customers pick up your bill. Simply put, our financial bean-counters (aka our financial department) looks at the accumulated cost of development, and divides this evenly on every device shipped. As a result, a client that picks up ten million of our microcontrollers per month pays the same as one thousand clients buying ten thousand units - combined. And the players with large scale production sometimes transfers intellectual property to us for inclusion in our tools to make their own engineers more productive. It is the large customers who pick up the bill - as they would have anyway! - and all our small and medium customers get superior tools for the price of the hardware and distribution. Add to this that Atmel don't have to advertise our tools. So there is no advertising costs to be carried forward to the customers. That reduces the total cost to be made up in sales revenue.

Quality of product
As the large capital players pick up the bill for development, Atmel can provide the same quality tools to all our clients, at a greatly reduced price. This makes our products inexpensive, but by no mean jeopardizes the quality of our products. This brings us back to the beginning: Diversity and quality is a result of market demand. As the AVR microcontrollers are adopted in more and more development environments, there will be a real market for high quality tools in the market place. The pure cost of developing a high end emulator platform and promoting it was simply too large in the first years, compared to the total available market of AVR users. But we see new tools vedors adding AVR to their list of supported architectures every quarter, and we stimulate all of them to adopt AVR. This is a point where end customers like yourself have a much more important voice than Atmel. If you see a tool you like - tell them! And tell your friends to tell them! This illuminates the market demand. No matter what Atmel does, it is the customers who will pay they listen to.

Conclusion
Tools are as good as clients are prepared to pay for. Atmel offers low cost, high quality tools because we can, and it gives the entire AVR community access to technology not offered by all of our rivals, at a cost affordable to all. This builds the base of AVR users at a faster pace, expanding the available market for high end 3rd party tools developers. As more clients request tools from their favorite tools vendors, the quality and range of selection of development tools will continue to improve. To benefit all of us.

Finally, we are about to launch a new generation AVR Studio. This product has been rebuilt from the ground up to open it to 3rd party plug-ins. That's right, like your favorite web browser, you may add or replace views, editors and underlying simulators with the plug-in of your choise. Keep the integrated, seamless environment while opening it to external sources. I can promise the registered members of AVRfreaks.net a preview a few weeks before the final launch in September.

Best Regards,
Haakon Skar
Manager - Asian Marketing
Atmel Corporation

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As an AVR "fan", I can applaud Haakon's statement of Atmel's approach.

Based on my own experience, and seeing the comments of others here, I hope that the "quality" aspect will be paramount in the new tools.

My idea of "quality" here:
-- Support ALL versions and flavors of commercially available products
-- Pay attention and FIX anomalies that arise

To me, this is more important than the chosen platform, the bells-and-whistles of plug-ins, and to some extent cost. The tools must be rock-solid and reliable.

Example from this forum: To me, there is no excuse for having a .DB odd/even length problem in the Assembler after several years. Assemblers are not brain surgery.

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Hi Shaar

Thankyou for the explanation/history I hope you don't mind if I ask you a few more questions and make a few more points, I think your initial market entry strategy (Offering FREE/low cost tools) was right, especially as you were competing against the likes of Micro-Chip. It is now 5 years on from your initial CPU launch and you are now finally realising the need for an "Open Tools Software Architecture" which you hope 3rd Party Tool suppliers will adopt. Are you going to provide R&D funding to other third party tool suppliers (other than IAR) ?

Entry Level
I understand your philosophy here, but do you think your emphasis on providing "Zero Profit" kits/very low cost ICE is a major dis-incentive to 3rd party tool suppliers ? It sounds to me like, your guys in Norway are swamped with work overload, trying to do everything, is this really good for your cutomers. Maybe you should look at what Infinion does to promote 3rd party tools.

Mid Range
We fit in here,

High-End
IAR and yourselves currently provide, but judging from some of the feedback we receive not all your customers are happy with what is provided, and end up using our system instead.

Your JTAG chip offering will be a useful addition when it arrives.

Cost Distribution
I am sure your small customers will be pleased to hear that it is your larger customers who are footing the tool development cost bill, not quite sure what your larger customers will make of that. Price of chips is a key factor for high volume users, I presume 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your customers lets hope you don't lose your high volume 20% customers.

Superior Tools
With regard to "Superior Tool Design", I have yet to see a Silicon Manufacturer provide better tools than what Independant Tool Suppliers can provide. All the best ICE and software development tools are provided by Independant Third Party tool suppliers. I will though say you have done a good job with the ICE200 product, although you should have made the core emulator hardware logic upgradable (as we have done with Micro-ICE via ALTERA FLEX logic). After all one of the chief benefits of using your FLASH CPU's is ease of re-programming/updates.
Can you tell me how many third party tool suppliers have adopted your fixed logic Emulator chip for AVR type AT90EM04 ? I think the answer is none other than yourselves. At the present time the only AVR ICE providers in the market are yourselves and us (Flash Designs).

Conclusion

Good tools only come about by tool vendors working closely together, agreeing standards and developing tools through painstaking careful design, and then receiving suitable reward/profit from sales to ensure on-going tool development/improvement. If you want to stimulate 3rd party tool development, the answer is simple make sure profit can be made from tool sales, provide suitable marketing backup (see what Infinion do).

New AVR Studio
Sounds good in theory, open architecture etc. Are you going to give away the source code ? How well will it be tested before you release it ? Will it allow multi-tasking, e.g. editing of source code as well as emulating at the same time. If not then I personally will not want to port our emulator to it.

If you want to carry on the discussion, please feel free to contact me via our web site www.flash.co.uk.

Regards

David Doo

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David,

Do you mean Infineon the new name for Siemens Semiconductors?

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Yes that is correct, goto www.spacetools.com, they also produce a magizine listing all third party products called CONTACT, which is mailed out to all Infinion Customers.

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Hi,

there is absolutely no reason to get excellent tools for free.

I think, a working assembler and simulator at assembler level was good enough as entry point to collect many AVR users.
So it's the importantest point, solve the .db bug finally !
Also I miss very hard, that no conditional assembling can be made.
Especially, since many different instructions defined to do the same, e.g. to set a bit in register or in the I/O-space. With conditional macros it can be combined in the same macro.
E.g. on the 8051 I can do all moves with "MOV", no different syntax like "MOV", "IN", "OUT", "LD", "LDI" needed.
Also often the memory address of a register was needed, in 8051 syntax I can easy use e.g. R1 and also AR1, no way to do the same on the AVR.
These only some suggestions, which can increase the AVR popularity dramatically.

If more experienced and more profit was made, any user was willing to pay for good tools and so no need to build it for free and by the AVR manufacturer. The only point it must work !

Also most professionals working with its preferred editors and make-tools, so only excellent working command line tools wanted.

But for such users, where money plays no role, excellent full integrated Windows IDE/ ICE can be saled, price unimportant, again reliabilty was the main point.

So my suggestion:
Hi Atmel concentrate your work on real working entry level (assembler), nothing more.
Hi other developers, any pricing category shoul find its user, if it's worth the money.

Only for interest, I tell my development method:
I use simulators to test the hardware working and Borland C to test algorithm in C sources. Then I use command line compilers to compile the C sources finally. My debugging method after this was to insert printf() statements.
I used never ICE or such things, since I use to many different derivates and casing and often many controllers in the same gadget. Also almost all of my application can not be connected to ground because noise or floating at 230V~ or up to 5000V=.
I have never seen any ICE which can float. I assume, until today any ICE must be direct connected to Earth, isnt it ?

Peter

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Hello,

I have a SK161 development kit form Infineon. I've played with it it's very nice. It have a C1610 controller which cost 7$ in single piece quantity. I guess that if I add flash+external ram+pcb price it's the same with atmega103. I was thinking to put it in production. Guess what stopped me?
PRICE OF DEVELOPMENT tools. I needed three licenses for compiler(Keil or Tasking) which costs 3000-4000$(one license) and 1 ICE which I hardly found at around 8000$.
After that I looked at Atmel. The development tools where cheap, I could afford them, so know I use ATmega103 instead of C161.

Regards,

Marius Harjoi

PS.
I've run some benchmarks(including floating point) to compare atmega103 at 6Mhz with c1610 at 16Mhz. Atmega103 it's only twenty percent slower compared to C161. Good job Atmel!

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Hi All,

Bravo Haakon Skar!

We use a range of AVR devices in our Industrial Products, programmed in assembler or Forth. The choice of CPU was driven by exactly the issues outlined in Haakon's post. Cost effective entry with the ability to continue with those tools in a fully functional manner. At present we are looking at also moving to the Dark Side & using C due to the availability of useful code libraries.

Our Forth system allows us to bypass the strong requirement for an ICE by using a single IO pin as a debug interface. Not as nice as being able to look inside the ICE but far less expensive than the Mega ICE.

At times we have looked at the MSP430 ( A 16bit Mega would be nice... ;-) but have had no way of making the move due to the lack of entry level tools to allow us to test the water. MicroChip too has noticed this & has provided some interesting resources to help market a truely appalling CPU, although the CPU situation is gradually changing ( 16Bit with DSP features sounds interesting).

Compare the AT90 to the entry situation with the AT94, the initial AT94 offering is severely time limited & prohibitively expensive for a non-commercial individual to continue with once full licenses need to be purchased. This is understandable considering the number of big names involved in supplying portions of the tool chain. It will however prevent the formation of a grass roots community as exists with the AVR, in case people haven't noticed, the Student/hobbiest area is becomming very competant & sophisticated. SOC would seem to be a useful technology to get up and going further down the food-chain, a simpler tool chain with a better entry level would greatly assist, after all once a company is confident of making use of the product they will happily part with money to refine the development process, the current time limitation is too brief to allow this.

AVR fluent students eventually form or work in Companies which will inevitably look at moving to better processors over their life-cycle. Having a foot in the door could eventually wind up selling a heck of a lot more chips further down-stream once the 'student' is actually in a position of influence. Alternatively, It is not uncommon to speak to a Developer at a conference who has licensed a design to a large manufacturer, or who was approached by a manufacturer & given a price bracket to work within in which they determine the required CPU. The big manufacturer buys the squadillions of chips but the decision on the type of chip was made by a little Company who, doesn't even rate a mention on the local Distribuitors top customer list & got started with the chip because 'They Could Afford To'. Less reliance on MBA's & more reliance on common sense would help the World considerably.

I would't consider that Atmel is endangering 3Rd party suppliers such as Flash Designs, I would have thought that exactly the opposite is occurring. The low entry cost is attracting potential customers to the Atmel Community, once there, they are likely to invest in tools which have a viable business case in terms of reducing the time/cost involved in getting a product to market.

Compared to some of the other CPU Manufacturers that we deal with I would say that Atmel is attempting to provide a better level of service. Having Morten online is one example of a useful service to the developer community, as is the Formal reply by Haakon. People appreciate not being left in the dark, after all our livelihoods rely on the availability of reliable, reasonably priced tools and the reliable supply of components. Lack of parts or buggy tools may be the straw that sends a Company over the edge, it may have been the guy supplying the design to the big Company poof! there goes the sale of 5 million bits over the next few years...

A few swatted bugs in the upcoming release (.DB?) will help cap things off. A few more app notes wouldn't go astray either, a look at the support site for the ST7 and friends will illustrate this, the offers in the AT94 area for App notes is an example of trying to involve the Developers.

Time to cease rambling & get back to work on a 163 design.

Thanks Atmel

Cheers

Don

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G'day all,

I think Atmel did the right thing. If their tools weren't free then when I started I probably would have chosen PIC's because I knew other people that were familiar with them and already had development tools.

ozi

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ozi wrote...
I think Atmel did the right thing. If their tools weren't free then when I started I probably would have chosen PIC's because I knew other people that were familiar with them and already had development tools.

As a matter of fact, last winter when I started getting into microcontrollers. I had purchased a book on them, Guide to PICMICRO Microcontrollers by Carl Bergquist and had downloaded and printed out a loose-leaf binder full on info related to PICs. Then I discovered AVRs and the small cost of getting into them.

Mike

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HI all,
I agree, how many of us started out tinkering with the low cost or free development tools and then stayed with the enviroment they were familiar with when they graduated and began to design commercial products. I know I did, and they was no way I could afford $1000s way back then, no matter how good the 3rd party stuff was. Remember, todays hobbyists often turn into tommorows EE.
Shaun.

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Hi Flash Design

I totally agree with ozi. If Atmel had taken an other marketing approach - not shipping AVR-studio allong with the STK-200 kit, then i would have been a PIC'er today....

the "add wather - You have a cake" - "add code - You have an application" is the Way we want to live/work. (read - reduce time to marked).

You just have to prove that your debugger is better - then we will by it....

Best regards

Niels

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Dear Peter Danegger,

I just thought I would add a comment to this thread to highlight the fact that you have a better choice of assembler. There is a number of assemblers available that come with a considerably better set of features than AVR Studio's built in one. I personally suggest all my clients and customers to switch to the IAR assembler (also available free from this site) if you would like features like conditional assembly. It is even bug free, to my knowledge.

How to make the IAR assembler work with AVR Studio is a topic I'm sure has been discussed on this forum already. It is a fact not to be hidden that the IAR assembler is a lot more difficult to get started on.

Best Regards,
Haakon Skar

Manager - Asian Marketing
AVR Microcontrollers
Atmel Corporation

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Hi everyone

I realised I was probably not going to receive the popular vote, suggesting a rise in price on dev tools, particularly from those who classify themselves as hobbyists and have limited resources. If tools are FREE or supplied at zero profit, then I don't think one can complain too loudly when things do not quite work. To those who prefer to pay for tools, a good tool supplier will correct bugs quickly and will provide various levels of support, at the end of the day, a professional developers time is money, so good tools actually save money. We hope when we release a demo version of the debugger, those who want professional tools will give it a go and see the difference, by the way, we are considering giving away part of the source code of our WINDOWS IDE, to allow other third party tool suppliers to bolt on their goodies, hopefully with ATMEL having some competition will increase the quality/speed of their response, which will be for the good of everyone.

Bye for now.

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Good Afternoon,

As an afterthought, Companies such as Microchip were partly only as successful in their efforts due to the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) they provided with their products.

The emphasis today is on time-to-market, and since a newcomer to any new architecture has to learn the structure first, then another tool to master by another vendor is not always in the best interest.

When one considers that all Engineering Challenges/Problems cannot always be solved by one device only, then the cost of acquiring development tools for one project is tremoundsly exhorbitant. Thus the feature of zero cost for AVR Studio is ideal for the small/medium users to get involved with the architecture to learn the pro and contra.

Yours sincerely

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Heh... This is such a silly argument. AVR Studio is wonderful... For it's price. It's free, and it works, usually. You can't beat that.
But that little word, (usually) makes all the difference. It's not perfect. It's got it's problems, limitations, and bugs. So, if your product is so great, Wonderful. Serious engineers are going to want something better; That's all there is to it. So, don't worry about Atmel's free development tools; The market you're trying to sell to WOULDN'T EVEN EXIST if they didn't have free/low cost development tools!
i'm sorry, but ever business is trying to turn a profit... And if they make a wonderful product, great. But if there's no 'allure', or if the initial investment outweighs the allure, you'll end up dead in the water, whether your product is the most revolutionary thing to hit the market or not makes no difference.
So don't condemn (or, in this case, question with obvious disdain) Atmel for doing what they had to do, and continuing to do so, to keep customers happy. Sorry, but it just reflects badly on you...

Bottom line: If your product is great, it'll sell. Not to the hobbyists, extremely small engineers, or independents... They'll stick with the free one, even with the quirks... But those are the people who wouldn't be using them anyway, without free/low cost development tools.

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I accept ATMELS reasons for giving away tools almost for free, now that I have read Haakon Skaars response, it has been over 5 years since the launch of the AVR to the market, by now one would expect a wider choice of tools to be available. I also wanted to find out what ATMELS future direction is regarding tools/STUDIO, which I think is useful for all to know. This allows the independants to plan a tools strategy for professional AVR developers. We will allow all AVR developers to try out a limited version of our Windows Debugger for FREE, which is now the only way one can get new products into the hands of users, and based on the feedback we get and no doubt comments in forums such as this, hopefully it will gain rapid approval and a willingness to pay some $$ for a full version.

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Hi All,

Haakon, whilst on the subject of attracting new customers. Has marketing ever considered the effect on possible new customers when their first point of contact with the AVR Family, namely the Instruction Set .pdf, is broken. The Index is faulty & has been so for a few years, surely this wouldn't take long to rectify & would certainly fix an obvious & glaring quality issue.

Cheers

Don

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I suppose that a person can go almost anywhere on the web and download some free Word processor software, or spreadsheet, etc. So, why does anyone ever pay for one?

Because they (think they) are getting a superior product and the investment will be recouped. If you build a superior product people will pay for it, but if you can't offer anything better than what is already out there for free, then you can try to get them to stop giving it away, so you can sell yours, but you won't have any luck.

I have some ideas for a product for Atmel microcontrollers, a tool that has as yet not been thought of, (as far as I know) that would probably speed microcontroller software development as much as any tool presently out there. And if other people shared my belief about it when I was done, they would pay for it, whether Atmel gave away their stuff or not. But if it was inferior then they wouldn't. Actually, if I find time, I am going to write it, I have already played around with it some, and I will likely give it away.

Tall Daniel

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