The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker this week announced an investment in Lynx Real-Time Systems, which specializes in incorporating Linux into networking hardware and other embedded applications. In addition, Intel has invested in Ten Art-ni, a Japanese company that specializes in creating Java-based applications and in providing services for incorporating Linux in corporations' systems, according to an Intel representative.
Linux is a Unix-like operating system that competes not only with Unix but also with Windows--and now with embedded operating systems. It's cooperatively developed by a host of "open-source" programmers who share software.
The investments mark Intel's sixth and seventh stakes in Linux companies and indicate an expansion of Intel's interest in the operating system. Past Intel investments in Linux have largely been aimed at improving Linux for use on Intel's chips from the Pentium family and its successors, which are used in conventional desktop computers and servers.
Intel's investment in Lynx Real-Time Systems is an effort to push Linux into networking hardware. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Lynx makes operating systems for "embedded" devices--computing equipment such as network hardware or factory floor robots that typically do a very specific job and have a limited user interface. The company plans to join the list of Linux companies to go public, though a schedule hasn't been set, according to chief financial officer Bhupi Singh.
The company for years has sold its proprietary LynxOS for the embedded market and is preparing an embedded Linux version called Blue Cat. Lynx will translate Blue Cat so it works on Intel's IXP processors, special-purpose chips designed for networking hardware such as routers and switches, Singh said. The chip competes chiefly against chips from Motorola and IBM.
The investment highlights the sprawl of Linux across a variety of computing devices as well as the haste of established computing companies to capitalize on that spread. The current Linux stronghold is servers running Intel chips, and apparently the company wants to reproduce that success in other market areas.
Intel's investment turns up the heat on Lineo, an embedded Linux company that is working with Motorola, one of Intel's chief competitors in the network processor market. Motorola has invested in Lineo.
The first round of Linux companies--Red Hat and VA Linux Systems, for example--were start-ups setting up new businesses. Lineo and Lynx, though, are making a transition, adding Linux to their product mix. That gives them the advantage of a pre-existing customer base.
Intel has been muscling its way into the communications chip market, buying numerous companies and developing its own products. The IXP chip was released in September 1999 and has special features for processing data quickly, said Intel spokesman Tom Beermann.
Though Intel didn't disclose how much it invested in Lynx, it was less than $10 million, Beermann said. The funding came from Intel's $200 million Intel Communications Fund. Lynx seeks corporate investments totaling more than $20 million, Singh said.
Lynx will use the money for marketing and services for its Linux work. Specifically, the company hopes eventually to make it so programs won't have to be rewritten to run on either Blue Cat Linux or on LynxOS, Singh said.
Red Hat, the first Linux company to go public, has its own embedded Linux strategy, and TurboLinux has hinted that it has an operation in China. Red Hat also has an open-source embedded operating system called eCos for small devices.