A benchmark for development and evaluation kits

The other day a colleague asked me if I was interested in reviewing the TMS570 MCU Development Kit. This is a kit for playing with the TMS570LS20216 ARM Cortex-R4F microcontroller and when I looked at the picture of the kit available on the product page on TI web site I immediately became interested. It is a big main board with a TFT display and many connectors on which a smaller board sits. The TMS570 microcontroller is designed for use in safety critical systems and as such it includes [quote TI website] dual CPUs in lockstep, CPU and Memory Built-In Self Test (BIST) logic, ECC on both the Flash and the data SRAM, parity on peripheral memories, and loop back capability on peripheral I/O. The Floating Point CPU offers 1.6 DMIPS/MHz, and it has configurations which can run up to 160 MHz providing more than 250 DMIPS. [quote end] The TMS570LS20216 has 2 MB Flash memory and 160 KB SRAM. One might be tempted to say that this is a pretty powerful MCU.

When the kit to review arrived it turned out to be not exactly what I expected, as it was just a large USB stick. The stick is so large because otherwise the MCU in its 144LQFP package wouldn�t fit on it. It came in one of those CD/DVD boxes that we know from TI and that included besides the stick a little flash light, a DVD, a USB extension cable and a flyer with installation instructions. The installation instructions are simple: insert the DVD and do a full install. So I did.

I wrote down the amount of free disk space before launching the install and the time: 9h20. More than 30 minutes and 95 (really!) mouse clicks later the installation was complete. Looking at the free disk space left over I noticed that this demo had used a whopping 7 GB! As a comparison, my Windows XP Pro folder contains 9 GB. To be totally honest, I did this installation twice, the first time I just ran it while trying to do other things. But when the number of mouse clicks and the amazing amount of pop-up windows started bugging me I decided to redo the installation and count and measure the above mentioned parameters.

Naturally I now was pressed to see the demo's, curious to discover what a USB stick with only a few LEDs and a 5 square cm MCU on it supported by 7 GB of software had to offer. Connecting the stick to my PC worked fine, it was recognized immediately, and I started the Safety Demo Software as indicated in step 3 of the installation notes. A window with six large buttons came up and I clicked on the left upper one labelled �Safety Features�. The tool now first programmed the MCU before showing a block diagram of the chip and a list of small buttons on the left that let you generate an error event in the MCU. The error is graphically illustrated in the block diagram and a little red LED is lighted on the board.

You will have little trouble to understand that I was deeply impressed by this convincing demo so I quickly went on to try the others. I clicked the Ambient Light button and a little window with a vertical bar graph showing ambient light intensity came up. A light sensor included on the stick makes this demo possible. If you keep your hand over the stick the bar drops to a few percent and when you shine the flash light on the sensor you can get it up to 100%.

Again, Wow.

So quickly on to the next demo: the Temperature Sensor. Clicking the button opens a small window showing a graph of the temperature. According to the demo the temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius, at least 7 degrees higher than the ambient temperature, but maybe it measured closely to the MCU or the PC? Anyway, this demo was as convincing as the others.

What about the LED Light Show? Again a little window pops up and this time you can start the preprogrammed light show or toggle the six blue LEDs manually. To not spoil the surprise in case you want to buy this development stick yourself I will not tell you what happened but I can assure you that I was again deeply impressed.

If I remember correctly TI was the first to introduce the concept of USB development and evaluation sticks, but where the first one featured an MSP430 MCU that you could break off after programming and then use in your own application, this USB stick seems to be a pure product of marketing. Only 22 of the 144 pins (called �test points�) are brought out to two pin headers although a CAN bus is available too. You get a compiler too, so you can write some code for the MCU but do you really need 7 GB and 95+ mouse clicks for that?

Let us now define a benchmark for MCU development / evaluation kits so we can quickly compare the ease of use and system impact of those kits: the helloWorld (hW). The helloWorld is calculated as mds/(ds*(mc+i)) where �mds� is the highest capacity hard disk available in the year of release of the dev kit (see Wikipedia, in 2011 msb = 4 TB), �ds� stands for disk space needed by the dev kit and mc means mouse clicks needed to get an LED flashing on the dev kit and finally �i� is the number of icons & short-cuts created on the desktop (8 for this kit). With such a benchmark the flash light included in the kit would get a score of infinity because it does not occupy any disk space. The mds parameter is included to introduce an element of time in the benchmark so that it would be possible to compare helloWorld benchmarks over time. You might argue that including Eclipse in a dev kit should be a separate parameter pulling the score down, but Eclipse in itself consumes enough disk space to ensure a low benchmark anyway.

The TMS570 Microcontroller Development Stick presented here scores a value of 4 TB / 7 GB x (95 mouse clicks + 8 icons) = 5.68 helloWorld [hW].

If you have any suggestions of benchmark scores for other dev and or eval (evil?) kits, please do not hesitate to send them to me so I can publish them here.

Brand Update : Indica Vista Goes Sedan Class

Brand Indica got a big boost recently by the launch of the new Tata Indica Vista . The new Vista comes with a spruced up looks and classy interiors packed with goodies. While the competition is hotting up in the premium hatchback market in India, Tata Motors is leaving no stones unearthed to regain its position in the Indian car market. Tata Motors launched its Vista product-line in 2008. The attempt was to strengthen the brand's foothold in the growing premium hatchback segment. 
Although Vista was launched as a sub-brand of Indica, the car was built on an entirely new platform and the refinement and the quality was entirely superior to that of Indica V2. However, Tata Motors decided the new launch to be under the umbrella of Indica brand. This move however was faulty and the response to the premium offering from Indica product-line found reluctant takers despite being value-for-money package.

This year, the brand relaunched the Indica Vista with lot of refinement and tweaking in the pricing. The frequent fuel price hike proved to be a boon to the predominantly diesel focused Indica range. 
The new Indica Vista  finds its point of parity with the sedans. The brand compares itself with a sedan and tries to convey the message that the car is  " Like Sedan".
Watch the ad here : Sedan Class
The new Indica Vista has the tagline " Sedan Class " reinforcing the new positioning. The ad is very sensible and conveys the message quite forcefully. The brand's idea of exemplar comparison with another category is quite effective in communicating its USP of better space and comfort.

During the early months of 2011, there were several reports of the plan of Tata Motors to make the Vista brand independent. The visibility of Indica brand name has been made insignificant and Vista is made prominent. So technically, Vista has become the primary brand in this case. The question is why Tata Motors is reluctant to let go of the Indica endorsement of Vista and make Vista a completely independent brand ? The damage has already made by associating an value-for-money brand ( Indica) with a premium offering ( Vista). Vista is going to suffer by continuous association with Indica brand. Other wise, the brand should be priced significantly lower than the other premium competing brands. 

The confusion regarding the branding of the premium hatchback offering from Tata Motors is evident in the case of Vista. The initial mistake was to stretch the Indica brand to a premium offering. It is very difficult for a VFM brand to build an equity in the premium segment. Second was the reluctance to make Vista an independent brand together with the fact that the premium offering had lot of similarities in features with the VFM offering. On hindsight, I feel that Tata Motors lost an opportunity to build a premium hatchback brand Vista. Three years is pretty long lost years in branding world. Would be interesting to see how the New Tata Indica Vista going to play up in the market. The timing has never been so perfect for a diesel car launch. 

Mederma : Leave Your Scars Behind

Brand : Mederma
Company : Win Medicare Ltd ( Licensed from Merz Pharma)

Brand Analysis Count : # 504

Mederma is a globally renowned brand for scar treatment. The brand from Germany based Merz Pharma  is marketed in India by Win Medicare Ltd under licensing agreement. The brand was launched in India in 2005. 

Indian skincare market is pegged between Rs 4000-5000 crore characterized by heavy competition and micro-segmentation. All the major global brands have entered this highly lucrative market. Another less visible but huge market is the specialty skincare market otherwise known as Dermatology market. According to Express Pharma, Indian dermatology market is worth around $ 513 million (roughly Rs 2500 crore) . This dermatology market consists of prescription products and OTC products and most of this products are niche products.

Mederma is such a specialty product with expertise in treating scars. An interesting fact about this product is that it is derived from an extract of Onion. The brand currently upped its share of voice in the Indian market with a series of campaign highlighting the product efficacy. 
Watch the ad here : Mederma Kid
                             : Mederma Adult
The ad is simple and convey the message in a very effective manner. Most of the Indian consumers worried about scars but not aware about a possibility of scar management using creams. The brand's aim is to build awareness about such an option . 
Mederma does not claim to remove those scar marks permanently but helps make scar less noticeable.  Mederma has the tagline " Leave Your Scar Behind ". The tagline is the same globally for this brand. The main positioning of the brand is based on  regaining confidence and self-esteem of people faced with this issue. Scars, acne, pimples etc can cause a loss of confidence and social withdrawal in many people. This issue is growing since our locus of control has shifted outside and people are getting more and more worried about their image and social acceptance. Marketers are adding to it through campaigns highlighting the need for looking good, fair and beautiful. Mederma's pitch looks appropriate in the Indian context. 

Parx : Live Easy

Brand : Parx
Company : Raymond's Apparels

Brand Analysis Count :  # 503

Parx - the premium readymade casual wear brand from Raymonds Ltd is in a relaunching mode. This Rs.185 crore brand from Raymonds wants to play an aggressive role in the hyper competitive ready-to-wear category in the Indian market.

Parx was launched in 1999 as a premium ready to wear brand targeting the highly mobile young corporate customer. The brand was targeting the users for their after- office hour dress requirements. Despite the backing from one of India's reputed textile brand and perceived high quality & expertise, Parx did not quite make it to the big league. It was dwarfed by the success of brands like Color Plus ( which was later acquired by Raymonds) and Allen Solly.

The Indian ready-to-wear market is highly lucrative in terms of market size of approximately Rs 24000 crore. The casual wear market is expected to be around Rs 7200 crore.  
Despite the fact that Parx belonged to one of the most respected textile houses , the brand did not quite caught the fancy of the consumer. As a consumer, I found the brand very pricey and failed to give any meaningful justification to the pricing either interms of brand or product features. Over a period of time, the brand also failed to keep itself aspirational due to increasing competition from global brands.

Parx was also laid-back in its branding efforts. The brand owners was not quite clear about the positioning of Parx. Neither the brand had any meaningful positioning. The brand was neglected by Raymonds and most of the promotional investment was given to the flagship brand Raymonds and Park Avenue.The brand was perceived to be just another casual wear brand from a reputed manufacturer. This lack of a clear positioning failed the brand to justify its premium pricing. Having said that, Parx has a good fan following in tier II cities. The brand is pushed back in metros and large cities by the competition. 
The promotions of Parx was also very erratic. I don't remember any work of this brand nor any of its taglines. This lack of proper investment on brand promotion also weakened the brand's position in this highly cluttered market.
In 2011, the brand went in for a relaunch. The brand redesigned its logo and also introduced a brand- symbol  :- a Racing Stag. This symbol will be in all garments from the brand. The brand also launched its first ever television campaign since its birth.
Watch the tvc here; Parx
Parx now has a new tagline " Live Easy ". The brand is focusing on building a personality traits of independence, attitude, casualness, freedom  through these commercials. The use of foreign models aims to bring an aspirational  touch to the brand. The attempt is to brand ladder to the higher attribute of freedom rather than product characteristics.
The new effort is commendable but little too late for a brand like Parx. The positioning idea of Live Easy is nothing new and the same theme is used by various brands across categories. The brand lost precious 12 years in creating a space for itself in the Indian consumer's mind. The brand now needs to tell compelling stories of the brand attributes it is trying to tell. It needs a lot of catching up to do. 

Brand Update : Horlicks Extends to Breakfast Segment

In pursuit of the stated objective of making Horlicks a megabrand, GSK announced the launch of Horlicks Oats. According to ET, packaged, ready-to-cook oats market is worth around Rs 200 crore and growing at 25% . Horlicks expects to leverage its equity in the new product category also.
From healthy malt drink, Horlicks has come a long way. Now  the brand has become so big and diversified, there is no point in criticizing these extension. ( one can only pray for its survival).
Regarding the brand extension towards oats, the existing health based brand association of Horlicks will be a huge advantage . According to academic researches, consumers evaluate brand extension on the basis of these parameters - 
Brand loyalty towards parent brand
Confidence of consumers about the competence of parent brand in the new category
Perceived quality 
Positive brand associations 
Perceived fit between parent brand and the extensions
Attitude of consumers towards the brand.

For Horlicks, because of its rich heritage and product performance, it scores well in most of the above parameters. Hence the chances of consumer trial will be high compared to any new brand.Brand dilution will happen for sure since the brand is trying to leverage its expertise in too many categories. 

There are also chances of the oats to be viewed as a Kid's product since Horlicks in India traditionally targeted kids. This kid's association may prevent many adults to switch to the brand. However Horlicks will be addressing this issue in the launch ad. My feeling is that Horlicks oats will be targeting the family as a unit rather than adults.

Related Brand

Brand Update : Havells Ventures into Small Appliances

Havells brand which made everyone look up with its clutter-breaking  " Shock Laga " ad has diversified into small appliances. Indian small appliances market is worth around Rs 5000 crore with premium segment contributing around Rs 1000 crore ( Source : Business Standard)

Havells is now running its commercials announcing the launch of the domestic appliances. By the theme of the ads, it is assumed that the foray is targeting the premium segment. Indian domestic appliances market is highly fragmented and intensely competitive. Brands like Philips, Bajaj  etc dominates the market. There are also local brands which have powerful equity in certain product-lines. Havells have already marked its presence in fans and water heater product categories.
Havells would be hoping that it can leverage the equity of its electrical products into the new product range. This time also , there is no specific brand value or USP that Havells is trying to project although subtly the ads try to position the brand as futuristic or technologically superior. In some ads, Havells is displaying the tagline " Future Ready " implying the futuristic technology that its product has. Having said that , the ads are able to convey the premiumness of the brand quite effectively.
I still see the absence of a corporate tagline for Havells as one of its major branding mistake. Since the brand is trying to be an umbrella brand endorsing products across categories, it is important to create a positioning platform for the corporate brand. Hope that the brand will get serious about its parent brand's positioning.

Related brand
Havells- Shock Laga Kya

Yamaha - Launches In India

YAMAHA, Big Daddy in the cycling world, launched an attack on the Indian market two wheels in 2008. It is finally awakened a dormant state and decided to go full speed in order to increase its visibility and market share in India. The major Japanese motorcycle took the first step of becoming a marginal player in an ordinary player in two Indian markets Wheeler.

Yamaha has wisely dug deep into its glorious past and came out with two machines incredibly developed and bikers in India were wanted. These bikes have taken the second Indian market wheels by the storm. With these offers Yamaha has seriously disrupted its competitors who have become more precarious after the launches. It has forced its competitors to return to the drawing board and think to meet the standards set by them. He really raised the bar very high heaven and it will be extremely difficult for its competitors. Both bikes are YZF R15 and FZ16. With these two launches, Yamaha is ready to resume his part in the Indian Ocean Wheeler second market. Both bikes were the Herculean task of promoting and restoring the Yamaha in India.

The launch of YZF R15 has a response from the Indian audience roaring. The bike has been touted as India's first superbike. Although the core of the machine is a 150cc engine, its the whole package, which strengthened the performance of the bikes and remedies. You can see other vehicles evaporate in retrospect, when you mount this beast.

The body is heavily inspired by the legendary Yamaha R1, which has captivated audiences worldwide for many years. The bike has a body tempting beautiful shape to match its macho image. Evil Twin headlights on the front is bleak. Scores high in the bike looks department. This bike also has some brilliant engineer who pushes ahead of its competitors. Injection system replaces the carburetor ingenious obsolete. The 6-speed transmission with a powerful punch. The process of shifting is smooth and effortless experience promises a horseback riding. A water-cooled engine (the first of its kind in India) dissipates heat faster and more efficient. The bike has an excellent ability to bend and provides excellent driving experience. This bike has been a blessing for young people who have been deprived of good quality bikes for years. He instilled the instinct of race in young people.

The other Yamaha motorcycle on the block, which began in the second half of 2008 is the macho FZ16. This bike has a more attractive bare soil. This seductive beauty has a robust construction and a gas tank perfectly chiseled. The tires are wide and offer an incredible road holding. This bike has attracted the eyes of all parts of the motorcycle industry and set the pulse racing. With the murderer is, along with a brilliant performance of this bike is ready to be the leader in the 150cc segment. The bike looks muscular and raw materials, which fell with the Indian public. Clearly, beating all its rivals in the 150cc segment, which is about to be crowned "Lord of the streets." The engineering on this bike may not be as advanced as the YZF R15, but it certainly is a high performance and value for money bike. Offers much more than a normal bike 150cc. It is a joy to own and is priced perfectly.

Kawasaki Motorcycle

Many bikes have been around for many years. The Kawasaki Eliminator 125 motorcycle is one of these bikes. Many things can happen in the world of motorcycling. Many things can happen and has happened to improve the Kawasaki motorcycle. Let's see how the consumer image of the Kawasaki motorcycle has changed since the 2008 Kawasaki 1998.

Overall rating Kawasaki

Taken as a whole in both 1998 and 2008 Eliminator 125 Kawasaki motorcycle scored the same way. The best score is 100 and 125 Kawasaki Eliminator scored 65.1 and 64.1 respectively. As you can see, it is better than average, which would have been 50, but always at the low end better.

Kawasaki motorcycle engine performance

The performance of a motorcycle engine Kawasaki is very important. Engine performance is important on any bike, not just a Kawasaki motorcycle, but it seems that Kawasaki has improved significantly over time. Kawasaki Eliminator 125 1998 was almost 10 points lower, at 58.7, against 68.2 in the engine of the Kawasaki Eliminator 125 2008.

Reliability and smooth conduct of the Kawasaki motorcycle

Unfortunately, the 1998 125 Kawasaki Eliminator does better in this area. He scored a 68.8, a total of four points higher than the 2008 model. It seems that the Kawasaki Eliminator 2008 125 is declining in this area.

Authors pleasure and Kawasaki

Fun, fun, fun. Motorcycles are all fun. So what do consumers think of the Kawasaki Eliminator 125? In 1998 it was at 70.5, and improved in 2008, the result of 71.7. 2008 Kawasaki 1998 model is more fun then.

Value of Kawasaki

Everyone wants a great value for their money, so how did Kawasaki motorcycle stack up? In 2008, Kawasaki Eliminator 125 bike was almost ten points higher than for 1998-model. They scored from 78.5 to 68.8 respectively. People believe that 2008 is definitely the best deal.

The costs of repair and maintenance of the bike Kawasaki

Maintenance and repair of the 2008 Kawasaki Eliminator 125 is much better in this department from 1998 model almost 24 points. Model 1998 has been placed in 2008 and 58.7 models were placed in well 82 points. In this regard, the model 2008 is a much better pockets, then the 1998 model.

Design and appearance of the bike Kawasaki

We all want a bike that looks good, unfortunately, the Kawasaki Eliminator 1998 125 highest scores. With 77.2 beat it with only a 71.7. The appearance of the Eliminator 125 Kawasaki motorcycle was better 10 years ago, such as consumer ratings