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Red Hat to support new embedded chip

The top seller of the Linux operating system hopes to give its embedded computing division a much-needed boost with its adoption of SuperH's forthcoming SH-G chip.

Red Hat, the top seller of the Linux operating system, announced a deal Wednesday to support SuperH's forthcoming SH-5 chip.

The deal is an important victory for Red Hat's "embedded" computing division, which creates software for computing devices such as network routers, cars or handheld computers. The division has seen revenue slump as microprocessor companies cut back on new chip initiatives, Red Hat has said.

The SH-5, which SuperH said is expected to be released soon, is a 64-bit chip that's more powerful than most designs for the embedded market. SuperH competes against MIPS Technologies, ARM Holdings, Motorola and others.

Red Hat is working with SuperH to develop its GNUPro programming tools for the SH-5, the companies said. The software includes the GCC compiler, the crucial utility that converts people's programs written in high-level languages into instructions the chip can understand.

GCC, like Linux, is an open-source project, meaning that anyone can use, change and redistribute the software for free. Red Hat acquired Cygnus Solutions and its GCC programmers in 1999; Alexandre Oliva, a programmer with Red Hat, added the SH-5 port to the GCC project on Feb. 9.

Red Hat believes its open-source approach will attract more developers than the proprietary model used by Wind River Systems--the king of the embedded software hill--as well as Microsoft as it tries to crack the market. Red Hat's GNUPro software includes carefully tested versions of the publicly available software, several additional programming tools and support.

Hitachi and chip manufacturer ST Microelectronics founded SuperH in 2001 as an independent company to develop and license the SuperH chip designs originally introduced in 1998. Its headquarters are in San Jose, Calif. The company expects to release two new designs, the SH-6 and SH-7, in the next two years.