Yes, USD$5500 is the retail price for one of the commercial tools for programming ARM processors. Of course you can get the 32KBytes version for free, although you need to register and you cannot program your applications in C++. By the way, its IDE is not unly the ugliest but also the most unproductive one I’ve ever seen (I use to code with VIM).
Another cheaper option is the one for USD$1500, but this uses the GCC compiler as its backend, so what are you paying for?.
One attractive option for us, the NXP fans, is the free version for 128KBytes limit from Code-Red. Yes, 128KBytes will be always better than 32KBytes, but you’ll find yourself stuck at that such a tool and you can’t still programm in C++, again. But I insist, this is one of the best.
So, Which would be the best option? Of course the GNU-GCC cross-compiler, plus the Eclipse IDE and the open-source OpenOCD bridge. No limits in your application size nor limited to the C language. So how much one would spent on this option? USD$0.00 (zero dollars) !!
I’ve been using it for a while and trust me I don’t miss any of those tools. I followed a bunch of tutorials, and I spent so many hours making my toolchain to work, but at the end I made it.
There is another great option: CooCox. I gave it a try, but I didn’t like it, ‘cause I got stuck at the CooCox mainteiners, and that is a really bad idea. Besides, such a tool has bugs, and the support for newer processors is not as fast as one would expect.
So, building your own toolchain might be slowly at first, but once it’s working you’ll achieve the same results as with the other (expensive) tools. Not to mention the deeply insight one gets when working with the bare-bones.
Note: A big number of programmers has been rejecting the C++ compiler for a long. Although your application is written in plain C, it’s a good idea to compile it with the C++ compiler, why? Just because such a compiler is more strict than the C one, so your application will benefit of this.
As soon as I got some spare time, I’ll post a tutorial on how to build the cross-tool chain.