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HP wins round in Java battle

Lynx Real-Time Systems signs a deal to use a Hewlett-Packard clone of Sun's Java software in its version of Linux for embedded devices.

Hewlett-Packard has won an important endorsement in its heated battle against Sun Microsystems over the use of Java.

Lynx Real-Time Systems, a major provider of operating systems used in non-PC computing devices, has signed a deal to use a Hewlett-Packard clone of Sun's Java software in its version of Linux for embedded devices.

Personal computer owners can choose what type of operating system--such as Microsoft Windows or Linux, for example--to install on a PC and can change it at will. Devices with "embedded" systems, such as cell phones and medical equipment, have operating systems permanently installed.

The Lynx version of Linux, called BlueCat, will come with HP's Chai software, an unlicensed clone of Java that's been a thorn in Sun's side for years.

Though Sun is addressing licensing concerns of some of its business partners, HP has obstinately refused to abide by Sun's terms for using Java in embedded hardware devices.

The deal is an important endorsement for Chai. HP's software will now be exposed to a larger audience, giving the company more leverage in its discussions with Sun about whether to call off their divisive dispute over Java. However, Linux is a new arrival in the embedded and real-time markets, and it will take time to see whether the open-source operating system will repeat the success it has had so far in the server market.

While the hardware and software in embedded devices isn't a very high-profile business, companies that focus on selling embedded systems rake in substantial revenue.

Java is software that lets a program, once written, be recycled for use on different types of computer systems. It holds out the promise of easier software development for environments where numerous types of devices are doing similar tasks--such as communicating to a central control console. Chai is specifically designed for running Java programs on small devices.

The use of CNET's Linux CenterLinux in a variety of embedded systems is starting to catch on. A consortium of more than 40 companies, including Lynx and competitors such as Wind River and QNX software, have joined up to support the system. Other participants include Lineo, IBM, Motorola Computer Group and Transvirtual.

But Microsoft, ever willing to take on Linux, also is pushing its operating system into embedded devices. Its version of Windows NT for embedded devices debuted in September and has been selected for use in 250 new products at 225 companies, the company said.

About a third of the designs using Embedded NT are for automating industrial equipment. Telecommunications and medical systems are another 15 percent, Microsoft said. The company also is working on an improved version based on Windows NT's successor, Windows 2000.

Lynx already sells an operating system called LynxOS for the embedded and real-time markets, but it's expanding to offer Linux as well. Lynx specializes in operating systems that run on embedded systems. For example, the proprietary LynxOS runs on factory robots, the U.S. Army's Crusader howitzer and air-traffic processing equipment aboard Airbus jets.

Lynx now is pushing Linux into the same area as its LynxOS has been. Motorola, which sells telecommunications servers that use LynxOS, is convinced of the merits of Linux for this area. Lineo, a company expected to go public later this year, also is pushing Linux for the non-PC market.