Linux Everywhere: The Rush to Embedded Systems
Embedded Linux is here!
Linus Torvalds has been insisting for some time that a prominent part of Linux's future lies in embedded systems, a rather unglamorous child of the computer world.
That future appears to be now, as multiple vendors announce products that extend Linux squarely into the suddenly-hot world of embedded systems. Already we're seeing a race to market, pitting companies with existing products against firms with experience in the embedded field which have upcoming Linux products.
But--and here's the interesting twist--many of the players say that the market is big enough for everyone.
"It's a pretty big market, really beyond belief," says Edward Ghafari, vice president of marketing at Coollogic. "Think of Internet appliances, think of industrial controls, think of automotive controls, think of household appliances, and you get a size of the market." Ghafari expects the Dallas-based Coollogic to ship half a million devices next year, with further growth on the way.
Coollogic made a further commitment to Linux today with the acquisition of On Channel, Inc., which was one of the first to ship embedded Linux open-source software solutions targeted at Internet appliance and industrial device markets. The deal extends the power and adaptability of embedded Linux into the Coollogic line of Internet Ready appliances, with specific focus on delivering high volumes of private-branded appliances into large vertical markets.
"We view our product as an information appliance, giving users the power of a PC and making it as easy to use as a VCR, bringing computing to people who aren't computer-savvy," Ghafari says. "You don't have the issue of proprietary applications or operating systems. It can grow, it can expand, it can evolve over time. And it's shipping."
"We're going after vertical markets--hotels putting it in rooms, management companies putting it into managed buildings, ISPs willing to include it in packages," says said Eric Powers, cofounder and chief technologist of On Channel.
The On-Channel operating system is targeted to become the OS of choice for automotive, consumer electronics and industrial purposes. It's already certified for use in handheld devices, cellular telephones, automotive GPS, Internet Access Devices, SBCs and networking infrastructure components. Featuring a small footprint (the standalone operating system uses less than 3 megabytes), multitasking and multithreading, POSIX and X Server compatibility, availability with embedded Netscape browser with full Java capability, seamless Linux compatibility complete with shared libraries, application development with Linux tool sets and running on PowerPC, Intel Pentium, MediaGX, and RISC architectures, the On-Channel OS is already used in Coollogic's e-Pilot line of Internet appliances.