No, a PIC microcontroller is not the only device out there. Over time many companies have emerged producing a wide variety of microcontrollers which offer similar functionality to the PIC and in many cases they outperform PICs.
Before deciding which device to pursue though, the bigger question is what do you need from your Micro? In answering that question a recent seminar puts an explanation out there that Microchip’s line of business is partly to be a key producer of 8 Bit microcontrollers and they have become pretty good at it. The F1 series is testament to that.
Picking a device brand and a family within that brand is perhaps an under rated decision. The reason being that any decision in this arena costs money, and over time your historical track can cost more than what you eventually make from it, especially if you are producing a commercial product.
For the record though, you have Microchip, Atmel and ARM (Advanced Risk Microcontroller – a type more than a brand). You also have the 8051s which have been around for a while. Longer than most others actually.
If you are a user of the Mikroe product stack you will know that most of the above bases are covered. From a cost perspective especially in terms of compiler, programmer and development board they are not very expensive to invest in.
Since the first question often is “What can I do with my Micro ?”, the best way determine scope is an internet search and from there you will see that the PIC is one of the most used. Thanks to Arduino, the ATMEL is once again getting allot of coverage. ARM is also and constantly on the up and up since more and more product and hardware support for beginners is getting onto the shelves.
So the question to you is? How will you use you investment capital?