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Lineo releases Linux for devices

The company releases the first version of Embedix, a version of Linux tailored for set-top boxes, personal digital assistants and other small devices.

Lineo has released the first version of Embedix, a version of Linux tailored for set-top boxes, personal digital assistants and other small devices.

The use of the upstart, open source operating system in sub-PC devices is catching on, but the market is getting crowded with Linux heavyweights. Transmeta, the firm that employs Linux leader Linus Torvalds, has its own version called Mobile Linux. TurboLinux has hush-hush development operations under way in China. And Red Hat, the first Linux seller to go public, is gaining entry into the market through its acquisition of Cygnus Solutions in November.

Lineo is the sister company of Caldera Systems, a seller of Linux that has filed its plans to hold an initial public offering. Caldera Systems has an equity stake in Lineo. Linux, a clone of Unix developed by hundreds of people across the Internet, competes with versions of Windows from tiny gadgets to powerful servers.

However, because of the way Linux code must be shared, many of the efforts by competitors to tailor Linux for small devices can draw on each other's work. This offers the advantage of faster development but the worry that a company developing such a version of Linux will have to make its money just from royalties or license fees.

Lineo hopes to make money by selling not only its Embedix product, for which the company will charge royalties, but also from higher-level software such as a Web browser and a software development kit to make it easier to create programs running on Embedix. Embedix also is available on CD-ROM for $30.

While Embedix is available as a free download, the software may not be resold, Lineo said.

Embedix doesn't require a hard disk but does need at least 8 MB of RAM and 3 MB of ROM or Flash memory. It works on devices with PowerPC or Intel-compatible chips. Email technical support is available.

Lineo's software development kit, due later, will come with a graphical configuration tool that lets a device manufacturer select which software components are desired and what interdependencies they may have. The development kit, along with the browser, are scheduled to ship in the second quarter of 2000.

Lineo also released a software product that will let programs written for Windows CE run on an Embedix device, the company said. Windows CE is a pared-down version of Windows designed for the same small devices as Embedix.