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Panasonic to invest in embedded-Linux start-ups

Company's venture capital arm is looking to work with four to five start-ups, helping them develop technology and find partners.

The venture capital arm of Panasonic's North American operations has launched an effort to cultivate embedded-Linux start-ups.

The Panasonic Digital Concepts Center, through its newly established Technology Collaboration Center, is seeking to invest in four to five start-ups working on Linux technology for embedded computing systems such as consumer electronics devices. Through the initiative, which was launched Tuesday, the company will help the start-ups develop technology and find partners.

Panasonic and its Japanese parent, Matsushita, have been keen on Linux for consumer electronics. The company sells an advanced set-top box and 3G mobile phone that use the open-source operating system; it's also using Linux in consumer electronics for automobiles and home audiovisual products that are under development, a company representative said.

Embedded Linux is an active area of technology development. Wind River, a powerhouse in embedded technology, now has joined the Linux fray, challenging specialists such as MontaVista Software and TimeSys.

Another company, FSMLabs, is taking a different approach to embedded Linux, combining the open-source operating system with its own proprietary one, RTLinuxPro. The approach is tailored for applications that require very fast "real-time" response.

On Tuesday at the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston, FSMLabs said that its dual-kernel approach can result in a guaranteed response time of 8 microseconds--or 8 millionths of a second. MontaVista, which uses a Linux-only approach, has a latency of 98 microseconds, which the company says is still about 100 times better than a standard Linux kernel.

FSMLabs announced the speed test on a system using a dual-core Opteron processor from Advanced Micro Devices.

LynuxWorks, a traditional embedded operating system company that has added a Linux product, also announced a hybrid approach at the conference. A software foundation called LynxSecure lets the company's BlueCat, a version of Linux, and LynxOS-178, a proprietary operating system, run in separate partitions on the same computing system.