The PC/104 Embedded Consortium - Strength in numbers

14 Years the consortium has been in existence

78 Active consortium members as of January 1, 2006

150+ Estimated number of PC/104, EBX, and EPIC manufacturers in 2005

1,000+ Estimated number of CPU and I/O board options available

$0M 1991 dollar revenue associated with PC/104 products

$104.6M 1998 estimated dollar revenue associated with PC/104 (including EBX) products*

$306.9M 2004 estimated dollar revenue associated with PC/104 (including EBX and EPIC) products*

$416.5M 2008 forecasted dollar revenue associated with PC/104 (including EBX and EPIC) products*

$3.66B 2004 estimated dollar revenue associated with all embedded products*

$4.64B 2008 forecasted dollar revenue associated with all embedded products* *

Annual strategic planning meeting recap
The PC/104 Embedded Consortium held its annual two-day strategic planning session in January 2006. Executives from leading PC/104 and related small form factor manufacturing companies who are active as executive members and/or act as directors for the PC/104 Consortium attended the annual meeting.

The purpose of the annual session is to examine technical and business issues related to the PC/104 industry. In addition, the meeting focuses on establishing short- and long-term goals and allocating the requisite resources to achieve them. Topics of discussion at this year’s event included an update to our mission statement, which now includes other small form factor boards. And nevertheless, the consortium will continue to emphasize the “stackable” nature of PC/104 and limit new offerings to those that include PC/104 expansion.

The updated mission statement, in draft form, is: “Promote the use of PC/104 and other small form factor CPUs with PC/104 stackable I/O expansion capability.”

The intention behind the recast mission statement is to continue to preserve our PC/104 (ISA) heritage while providing a bridge to emergent technologies in the future. I’ll echo Chris Ciufo’s recent comment as he announced the change of OpenSystems Publishing’s PC/104 Embedded Solutions magazine to PC/104 and Small Form Factors: “PC/104 remains our core mission and technology.” (PC/104 Embedded Solutions, Winter 2005.)

Beyond the recast mission, directors participated in technical discussions, laid the groundwork for this year’s marketing program, and aligned resources and activities to support our goals. There was lively discussion on a “next-generation” PC/104 platform supporting PCI-Express and spirited debate over the consortium’s possible adoption of the EPIC Express platform. There were decisions made with respect to the consortium’s first-ever attendance at a European tradeshow – Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany.

Positive market outlook
More interesting than the topics covered was the general sense from participants that, overall, things are pretty darn good for the players in the PC/104 industry. All of the members who were present at the strategic planning session are leaders of, apparently, very successful organizations. The market for embedded product continues to grow, and PC/104 continues to enjoy a compound annual growth rate higher than that of the overall embedded computer market. There is a well-established ecosystem of vendors and product offerings available with more than a hundred unique manufacturers selling upwards of a thousand different PC/104 platforms, including nearly unlimited I/O options. Multiple vendors are a reflection of a healthy standard, as there is a critical mass of PC/104 products compared to other proprietary form factor products on the market.

PC/104 and its derivatives continue to be an excellent choice for designers seeking a rugged, stackable, small-size embedded computing platform. There are numerous independent websites promulgating PC/104 products, multiple industry trade groups tracking PC/104 sales/growth, and an independent magazine titled PC/104 and Small Form Factors dedicated to PC/104 products. (You’re reading it now.) The book-to-bill ratio for semiconductors continues to be steady with indications of improvement over previous quarters. Economic conditions in the United States as well as globally, while not robust, are stable and appear to support future expansion.

In short, the industry is healthy; PC/104 and small form factor “design wins” are growing and, as a result, leading PC/104 manufacturers will continue to thrive. The future looks good. So what’s missing? From my perspective, what’s missing is increased participation by PC/104 vendors and suppliers who were not present at this year’s strategic planning session and who forgo involvement in consortium matters. There were 8 firms represented at this year’s program, yet there are 78 active members and in excess of 150 independent organizations involved directly or indirectly with PC/104 products. By the end of the decade, forecasted revenue for PC/104 and small form factor boards will approach one-half billion dollars. Last I checked, that’s a fairly sizable pile of cash. If it were my money (and some of it is), I’d want to be involved in the consortium’s management and future plans.

The consortium is a powerful force in the embedded industry. Participants at this year’s meeting are seeking to ensure our long-term success, assuming leadership positions, and making decisions that have an impact on the entire PC/104 community. PC/104 members who are not currently participating as board directors are encouraged to do so. In addition, PC/104 suppliers who are not currently members have a strong incentive to join in the discussion to help ensure our long-term success. After all, there is strength in numbers, and the more active participants we have, the more vital the organization will become.