Silicon Labs was the leader with its initial ToolStick (Sticking It To The Developer, ED Online ID 12142). The new $24.99 ToolStick (Fig. 1) takes on the dual board approach started by Texas Instrument's with its MSP-eZ430U (EiED Online>> Mid-Range Micro Kits, ED Online ID 12991). It is also making the ToolStick Base Adapter (Fig. 2) and ToolStick C8051F330 Daughter Card (Fig. 3) available for $17.50 and $9.90 respectively.
The software included with the kits is based on Keil's 8051 toolset. Keil has been purchased by ARM but it will continue selling its non-ARM processor products. This is good because Keil's µVision (EiED Online>> Developing ARMs, ED Online ID 11307) is a major player across almost all microcontroller platforms. There has been some improvement in the samples and application notes from Silicon Labs only making a good development package even better.
One nice option is the ToolStick Debug Adapter (Fig. 4) priced at $8.90. This plugs into the base unit and to a pin header on a development board. This provides a very low cost development platform for your own hardware and for other development boards that utilize Silicon Labs 8051 processors.