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Lineo deals push Linux into gadgets

The start-up company takes major steps forward in its effort to sell Linux software for use in TV set-top boxes and other non-PC devices.

With eight strategic alliances and an acquisition, start-up Lineo has taken major steps forward in its effort to sell Linux software for use in TV set-top boxes and other non-PC devices.

Lindon, Utah-based Lineo has signed agreements with six Taiwanese electronics manufacturers, Korean electronics giant Samsung, and Korean computing and communications firm DaiShin. In addition, Lineo has acquired Rt-Control, which is creating a version of Linux for devices even farther removed from regular computers such as cell phones, digital cameras and even cars.

Lineo sells software called Embedix, a version of Linux combined with functionality software such as a small Web browser for use in small computing devices typically lacking the general-purpose abilities of a PC.

DaiShin has licensed 400,000 copies of Lineo software to be used in wireless devices, home networks and other Internet devices.

Samsung will use the Lineo software for personal digital assistants and set-top boxes. The deal with Samsung will include joint sales and marketing efforts.

In addition, Lineo signed deals with Taiwanese manufacturers Arima, Compal Electronics, First International Computer (FIC), Micro-Star, Mitac and Wisecom.

Mitac had 1999 revenues of $4.3 billion, and FIC garnered $1.7 billion. Compal, with $1.6 billion in revenue, makes cell phones and computer displays, and manufactures equipment for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu, Compaq, and NEC. Arima, with $1.3 billion in revenue for 1999, makes notebooks, digital cameras and cell phones.

These companies, while not possessing brand names familiar to most U.S. consumers, manufacture many components and even full-fledged products for major brands. Their technology decisions invariably find their way into the mainstream.

Linux Center While Linux itself can be downloaded for free, Lineo hopes to make money by licensing proprietary software as well, in particular, programming tools that will make it easier to create software for their computing devices. The company ultimately plans an initial public offering. Embedix is based on a version of Linux from Lineo's sister company, Caldera Systems.

Red Hat, through its acquisition of Cygnus Solutions, also hopes to gain a foothold in the use of Linux in sub-PC devices.

Rt-Control works on a version of Linux called uClinux, which has been ported to the Palm Pilot and can run on several chips, including the Motorola 68000, the Motorola ColdFire, the ARM7, the Axis ETRAX and the Intel i960.