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Open Source vs. Proprietary Solutions in Embedded Development

Embedded development involves designing and integrating software into physical hardware. In other words, embedded development involves computerizing traditional machines.

Embedded software development (or embedded firmware development, however you’d like to call it) is a thriving field. The embedded system market will reach $116.2 billion by 2025, rising at a compound annual growth rate of 6.1% since 2020. Numerous factors drive this market, including the proliferation of 5G connectivity, the automotive industry boom, the de-stigmatization of self-driving vehicles, demand surges for embedded consumer devices, and the global need for robust microcontrollers. 

With the embedded software development market in such great health, there’s naturally a lot of debate and discourse about optimizing software development in embedded systems. The open source versus proprietary software debate is at the front and center of these conversations. Right off the bat, it’s important to know that the open source versus proprietary software debate doesn’t have easy answers. Both options have pros and cons, and the unique contexts of enterprises will inform whether one solution is better.

This article breaks down the pros and cons of open-source and proprietary solutions for embedded development so that enterprises can make an informed and responsible decision about which model to use.  


What is the Difference Between Open Source and Proprietary Software?

No one can understand the nuances of the open source versus proprietary software debate without knowing what the two models entail. Therefore, before we delve into the pros and cons of open-source solutions for embedded software development, let’s briefly understand the differences between open-source solutions and proprietary solutions.  

Open Source Software

Open source software is available at no cost, and businesses can apply it in any use case they want without restrictions. The source code of open-source software is publicly available on the internet. Communities of developers develop and test open-source solutions in a transparent collaboration model. Examples of open-source software include VLC Media Player, Blender, Mozilla Firefox, and jBPM (an open-source workflow engine that will feature in one of our case studies below). 

Proprietary Software

With proprietary software, no one other than the company that designed it can access the source code. This means that no third party or end-user can access or modify the source code. Anyone who wants to use proprietary software must purchase it from the company that designed it. The purchase comes with a license that may have certain usage restrictions. Examples of proprietary software include macOS and Windows. 

The Pros and Cons of Open Source Solutions for Embedded System Development

This section highlights the most critical pros and cons that businesses must know about using open-source solutions for software development in embedded systems. 

Open Source Solutions for Embedded System Development: Pros

The most significant advantages of using open-source solutions for embedded system development are:  

  • No Vendor Lock-In: Being stuck to a suboptimal software vendor can cause numerous challenges. Companies using open-source software aren’t dealing with a single vendor. This makes it easier to explore different solutions in the future if required. 
  • Community Support: One of the biggest advantages of open-source solutions is that businesses will have the free support and expertise of a global online community. Almost all critical information regarding open-source solutions is available on online forums.
  • Fewer Misconfigurations: Since vast online communities of developers are constantly testing, evaluating, and documenting information about open-source software, businesses don’t have to worry about bugs, misconfigurations, and security vulnerabilities.
  • No Costs: Open-source software is almost always free, which is a blessing for businesses with limited resources. Even commercial open-source software (COSS) vendors often provide a free version of the software so companies can experiment with it before committing to a purchase. 

Open Source Solutions for Embedded System Development: Cons

The biggest disadvantages of using open-source solutions for embedded system development are:  

  • Potential Instability: Community support is always a bonus. This is because there aren’t too many COSS vendors with the resources and stability of a multinational corporation. Therefore, businesses may face issues if their COSS vendors have limited resources, capabilities, and availability. 
  • Lack of Context-Specific Assistance: Online open-source support communities and resources are incredibly useful. However, if a business faces a unique project-specific challenge, it will not receive the kind of personalized support that a major vendor might provide.
  • Too Technical: Open source software, both free and from COSS vendors, isn’t that easy to navigate, especially for non-developers and employees without coding skills. Open source doesn’t provide the drag-and-drop options that many non-experts may prefer. 
  • Monetization Limitations: If a business wants to design and sell its own software, then using open-source solutions as a key ingredient may cause monetization challenges. This is because the licensing rules of a COSS vendor will largely define what a business can and can’t do with that software. However, remember that this is cautionary and not a rule. Many businesses strategically use open-source resources to develop successful and robust commercial projects.   

The Pros and Cons of Proprietary Solutions for Embedded System Development

Now that we’ve explored the pros and cons of using open-source solutions for embedded software development, let’s take a look at proprietary solutions. 

Proprietary Solutions for Embedded Software Development: Pros

The biggest advantages of using proprietary solutions for embedded software development are:  

  • Personalized Support: Since businesses procure proprietary software from well-established vendors, they can expect more personalized and context-relevant support services. This is a blessing, especially for complex projects that may require a personal touch. 
  • Easy to Use: Unlike open-source software, which may require technical skills, proprietary solutions are friendlier for non-experts. Therefore, proprietary solutions are better for those seeking straightforward functions from their software without getting too technical.
  • Multiple Upgrades: Once businesses buy a proprietary solution from a software vendor, they can expect numerous periodic upgrades, some of which may not be free. However, these upgrades are helpful because they significantly extend the life of a particular software product.
  • Product Rights: When a business purchases proprietary solutions, they receive a complete package, which includes total ownership, updates and upgrades, documentation, and support.  

Proprietary Solutions for Embedded Software Development: Cons

The biggest disadvantages of using proprietary solutions for embedded software development are:  

  • Vendor Lock-In: With proprietary solutions, there’s always the risk of vendor lock-in. It can deeply frustrate businesses if they can’t easily replace existing software solutions. Furthermore, if a business switches to another vendor, employees may need to undergo training to learn new tools. 
  • Cost: The most obvious disadvantage of proprietary solutions, especially when compared to open-source software, is cost. Proprietary solutions have a hefty price tag on them. However, businesses must assess what long-term gains specific proprietary solutions can provide.
  • Dependency: There’s much less transparency with proprietary solutions than with open-source solutions. Vendors don’t disclose the backend complexities of product versions, vulnerabilities, configurations, and bugs to customers. Therefore, businesses are heavily dependent on their vendor when it comes to support and assistance.
  • Less Flexibility: Unlike open source software, which businesses can leverage in myriad ways, proprietary solutions typically have more rigid application potential. Therefore, companies must know what they want from their software when commissioning proprietary solutions.  

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Open Source versus Proprietary Software for Embedded Development: What's the Verdict?

As mentioned at the start of this post, there’s no easy answer between open-source and proprietary software for embedded firmware development. Furthermore, as the pros and cons mentioned above suggest, no single factor can make businesses prefer one over the other. 

Therefore, the verdict is that businesses must assess their requirements and contexts to get a sense of which model would suit them best. However, all companies must work with an expert tech partner to understand how either model would fit into their embedded development plans and how to optimize its application. 

For instance, a business may choose to work with open-source solutions for embedded firmware development. However, a tech partner like has experts within its ranks who can ensure that enterprises use open-source solutions to their fullest potential. Furthermore, can add custom code to any solution, which can significantly help serve an enterprise’s unique needs.

Numerous companies are interested in unlocking value via embedded firmware development, especially by mastering microcontroller and embedded driver development. However, it’s important to remember that by utilizing the services of a company like, mastering microcontroller and embedded driver development (or anything else in this space) becomes hassle-free. Most importantly, it becomes possible to do without heavy upfront investments, challenges, and complexities. A top tech partner can quickly mitigate those challenges for an enterprise. 

To conclude this article about open source versus proprietary software for embedded firmware development, let’s quickly take a look at this case study.

Our team at collaborated with a leading global fintech company to develop a robust solution for banking process digitalization, utilizing several prominent open-source projects, namely MapStruct, OpenShift, Angular, Camunda, and jBPM. With’s expertise, the fintech leader realized significant benefits from these open-source solutions, including:

  • Six-figure annual cost savings,
  • Enhanced business process visibility across multiple organizational processes,
  • Strengthened compliance with regulatory standards due to workflow automation,
  • Eliminated redundancy and system performance stabilization,
  • A cohesive Data Model connecting corporate goals to KPIs and automated reporting.


On top of that, the solution allowed our customer to significantly improve their customer services.

You can do the same. All you need to do is start a conversation with


Embedded development is one of the most exciting fields in the world of technology, and numerous companies are trying to unlock value in this space. The big question for them is whether they should choose open-source or proprietary solutions for embedded system development. 

In this article, we looked at the pros and cons of each model. Open-source solutions reduce the chance of vendor-in, offer community support, have fewer misconfigurations, and are free or inexpensive. However, some disadvantages include potential instability, lack of context-specific assistance, being overly technical, and monetization limitations. On the other hand, proprietary solutions are easier to use, feature personalized support, and offer multiple upgrades and product rights. However, disadvantages include high costs, more dependency, less flexibility, and the possibility of a vendor lock-in. 

Businesses should take a close look at their unique requirements, budgets, and circumstances and make an informed decision about which model to choose for embedded development. However, they must remember that working with a tech partner like can be a game-changer. Partners like can unlock the true value of either one of these robust solutions.

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