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Intel broadens its Linux investment strategy

The company's investment in MontaVista Software will help advance Linux technology and products for embedded computing devices using the XScale chip.

Intel has invested in a Linux company that's helping to bring the open-source operating system to Intel's XScale chips.

Intel's investment in Sunnyvale, Calif.-based MontaVista Software will help advance Linux technology and products for embedded computing devices that use the XScale chip, Intel spokesman Robert Manetta said today. XScale is the successor to Intel's StrongARM chip.

Intel's funding is part of $23 million in investments that MontaVista announced today. Other investors include W.R. Hambrecht & Co., RRE Ventures, US Venture Partners and Alloy Ventures.

Embedded devices span a broad range of non-PC products, everything from car antilock braking systems to network routers.

"Obviously, we want to see a lot of popular software ported to our architectures, and XScale is a good focus for us," Manetta said. He wouldn't disclose the size of the investment but said Intel typically invests between $1 million and $10 million in a company.

The StrongARM and XScale chips are lauded for their low electricity usage that is combined with comparatively high processing power. StrongARM chips are used in Compaq Computer's iPaq handheld, and XScale is expected to be used in future Palm devices.

Compaq and others are working on a version of Linux for the iPaq.

This is Intel's second Linux-related embedded computing investment--the first being in LynuxWorks--and it is Intel's eighth Linux investment overall. LynuxWorks, formerly known as Lynx Real-Time Systems, already sells an embedded operating system called Lynx but is gradually moving its product line to Linux.

The embedded Linux market is booming. Red Hat, perhaps the best-known Linux software company and another recipient of Intel's investment money, has an embedded effort afoot, and Lineo has filed to go public. TimeSys also hopes to make a splash in the embedded Linux market.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel already has an investment in TurboLinux, which is the leader of a Japanese embedded Linux consortium called Emblix that includes Asian electronics giants Sony, NEC, Fujitsu, Canon and Toshiba.

Intel's other Linux-related investments have been in VA Linux Systems, SuSE, eSoft and Japanese company 10art-ni.