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Software firm gains $20 million for Linux transformation

Lynx Real-Time Systems is expected soon to announce equity investments by Motorola and TurboLinux to help it transform itself into a Linux company.

Lynx Real-Time Systems will receive $20 million from Motorola, TurboLinux and others to help it transform itself into a Linux company.

The two high-tech firms are expected to announce equity investments in the embedded operating system specialist on Monday. Last week, Intel revealed an investment in Lynx. All together, the funding round totals between $20 million and $30 million, Lynx chief executive Inder Singh said in an interview.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company will use the money in its effort to make its proprietary operating system, LynxOS, interchangeable with its version of Linux, called Blue Cat. That task will be done by the fourth quarter of 2000, Singh said.

Lynx is one of several companies pushing the open-source software into "embedded" devices such as routers, Internet appliances, telecommunications servers or other non-PC computing devices. Lineo, one of Lynx's chief competitors, also has received an investment from Motorola and has been acquiring embedded Linux companies at a furious pace.

Even though publicly traded Linux companies such as Red Hat, VA Linux Systems, Andover.Net and Caldera Systems have seen their stock values slide in the months since their initial public offerings, Linux still appears to retain its luster.

Investors have been increasingly interested in whether Linux will be able to sweep across the embedded device landscape as fast as it stormed the server segment. Because of the disparate nature of the market, embedded Linux specialists should be able to seek profits from sales of software tools and operating systems, fairly conventional sources of revenue for developers. The Linux server specialists will largely look toward services for profits.

The sudden popularity of Linux has persuaded several companies to transform themselves into Linux specialists. Among them are hardware maker SGI, Unix seller Santa Cruz Operation, office and graphics software seller Corel and management software seller Enlighten Software. However, those transitions have not been an easy guarantee of higher stock prices.

To reinforce Lynx's transition to a Linux company, Lynx may change its name, one industry source said. A possibility is LynuxWorks, the name of the Lynx Linux effort. Singh declined to comment on such a move, but he did say, "LynuxWorks is our strategy."

Motorola already has an investment in Lynx--insiders put the company's stake at about 10 percent. LynxOS is used on some Motorola telecommunications servers.

"Motorola works with many different operating system vendors," Singh said.

The TurboLinux investment CNET's Linux Centeris curious in light of TurboLinux's own embedded Linux research, a small programming team in China. TurboLinux vice president Lonn Johnston declined to offer specifics beyond saying Lynx's work won't overlap with TurboLinux's efforts.

"We have a 'skunk works' around embedded systems work, but we were very attracted to what Lynx has," Johnston said.

TurboLinux will help provide Lynx with connections to manufacturing giants in East Asia, Singh said. Competitor Lineo already has multiple connections with manufacturers.

Among other areas, Lynx is aiming Blue Cat at a variety of Internet appliances, such as Web pads and small portable devices, and development of such gadgets is taking place chiefly in Asia, Singh said.

The embedded operating systems market is fragmented. Singh believes Linux has the potential to provide some consolidation. To make sure that Linux doesn't splinter into incompatible versions, Lynx supports the Linux Standard Base effort to make sure the core workings of the operating system are the same across all versions.

The open-source nature of Linux, in which many developers and companies collectively develop the software, means that an organization may modify the software however it wants as long as changes are published. In the mainstream Linux movement, though, Linux leader Linus Torvalds and a host of deputies keep the core parts of Linux unified in a single version.

The current LynxOS version 3.1 already works in a way similar to Linux, Singh said. A new version 4.0 will work exactly the same, so higher-level software won't have to know whether it's using LynxOS or Blue Cat, Singh said.

Red Hat, which is actively moving into the embedded Linux area through its acquisition of Cygnus Solutions, believes it will earn the mantle of responsibility for embedded Linux, chief technology officer Michael Tiemann has told CNET News.com.