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Yamaha, NEC back Linux start-up

MontaVista Software, a company specializing in use of Linux in embedded devices, has won an investment from Yahama and sold its software for use in a new video recorder.

MontaVista Software, a company specializing in use of Linux in embedded computing devices, has won an investment from Yahama and sold its software for use in a new video-recording computer.

NEC has picked MontaVista's Linux Professional Edition operating system for use in its AX10 home server, the company said Wednesday. The AX10 is designed to record video from television onto its hard drive. It can also be used to connect multiple PCs to each other as well as to consumer-electronics devices. The AX-10 comes with a remote control and also can be controlled from afar over a cell phone network with an NTT DoCoMo I-mode phone.

Linux, a clone of the Unix operating system, is used most frequently in servers and sometimes in desktop computers, in versions developed by companies such as Red Hat and SuSE. MontaVista, along with rivals such as Lineo, is trying to adapt Linux for embedded computing devices such as nerve gas detectors, network routers and handheld computers.

Japanese consumer-electronics giant Yamaha announced the MontaVista investment last week. However, Yamaha declined to detail how it planned to use the company's embedded Linux software or how much it had invested in the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based start-up.

"With the spread of broadband technology, embedded Linux is proving an ideal match for digital audio products," said Masatada Wachi, managing director and chief technology officer of Yamaha. "We expect our strategic partnership with MontaVista to help further develop the technology needed to enable the market to tap into newer applications and opportunities."

In the embedded market, Linux competes with Wind River Systems' VxWorks and Microsoft Windows XP Embedded. Other companies working to adapt their businesses to the arrival of embedded Linux are QNX Software and LynuxWorks.

Companies making embedded operating systems typically earn much of their revenue from sales of development tools. These tools let customers create a version of the embedded OS that is tuned to the needs of their particular device, with support for options such as hard drives, network adapters, TV signal tuners and USB ports.

Consumer-electronics companies have taken an interest in embedded Linux companies since the late 1990s. Yamaha is the latest to invest; previous MontaVista investors include Sony, Panasonic and IBM.