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TimeSys adds new embedded Linux option

New take on simplifying chaos of open-source realm connects programmers to continuous stream of relevant software updates.

TimeSys, one of a handful of companies trying to make a business out of selling Linux for use in embedded computing devices such as elevators or set-top boxes, launched a subscription service Monday to try to lure do-it-yourself programmers.

The Pittsburgh-based company already sells programming tools and services for embedded Linux programmers. But like rivals such as Wind River Systems and MontaVista Software, it's trying to reach programmers who today are content to download open-source software without paying a corporate intermediary.

TimeSys' new LinuxLink service is a new take on the idea of simplifying the seeming chaos of the open-source realm, where software is freely available from a myriad of sources. The service connects a programmer to a continuous stream of software updates, some from open-source programming efforts and others from microprocessor companies that release Linux software specific to their chips, said Chief Executive Larry Weidman.

"It's a customized, continuous flow of information and code licensed from us on a subscription basis," Weidman said. The service costs $3,000 per year for each processor type a developer wants supported, he said. TimeSys has partnerships with several major embedded processor companies, including Freescale Semiconductor, ARM Holdings, MIPS and Intel.

Unlike Linux sellers such as MontaVista, Wind River and Red Hat, TimeSys is betting that developers won't put a premium on buying software packages that are guaranteed to work together but that are updated relatively infrequently. Instead, TimeSys' programming tools include features to test and certify software. The programming tools cost $5,000 per developer per year, Weidman said.

TimeSys isn't profitable, but Weidman hopes it will be soon. "Because of the subscription model, we expect to be cash-flow positive before we're profitable, and we're right on the edge of both," he said. "It's touch and go" whether the company will achieve profitability in 2005, he said.

The company has 45 employees and is hiring new staff in marketing, sales and customer support, Weidman added.