Making Linux more gadget-friendly

TimeSys, a seller of Linux designed to be embedded into various computing devices, joins the Consumer Electronics Linux Forum. Competitor MontaVista plans to do the same.

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TimeSys, a seller of Linux designed to be embedded into various computing devices, has joined the Consumer Electronics Linux Forum, and its competitor, MontaVista Software, plans to announce a similar move next week.

Pittsburgh-based TimeSys will help CELF achieve its goal of making Linux work better in consumer-electronics devices such as television sets and DVD players, the company said Thursday. CELF works on ways to produce devices with features such as faster start-up and shut-down, lower memory requirements, faster performance and lower power consumption.

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The forum was founded by Matsushita Electric and Sony. NEC, Philips Electronics, Samsung, Toshiba and Sharp joined as appointed members.

MontaVista, which sells a version of Linux for consumer electronics devices, applied for membership in the group and said on Friday that it plans to announce its membership next week.

Earlier this week, MontaVista said that software now is available for IBM's 405LP processor, which is meant for devices such as advanced handheld computers and cell phones. MontaVista's software supports the chip's ability to change its clock speed, voltage and resulting power consumption as it runs.

Embedded-software companies typically make money selling development tools that can help customers configure software for devices, for example by selecting from a variety of modules for everything from displaying information on small screens to reading from a flash memory card.

Linux is starting to encroach into the markets held by existing embedded-computing companies such as Wind River Systems, Green Hills Software, and on the turf of newcomers such as Microsoft, which are trying to make their own entrance.

According to the embedded-computing analyst firm Venture Development, the total market for embedded-computing software, development tools and services was $1.37 billion in 2002. Of that, Wind River had the largest share, 17.7 percent, with Microsoft in second place at 11.1 percent. MontaVista was farther down the list with 1.2 percent, and TimeSys fit into the "other" category with less than 1 percent.

Another embedded-systems company, Applied Data Systems, showed its embedded Linux wares this week at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo. Among its demonstrations was a version of Linux that could take advantage of the Intel XScale processor's ability to change its clock speed to between 100MHz and 400MHz.

Also at the show, Metrowerks, a Motorola subsidiary that sells embedded-development tools, released version 1 of its CodeWarrior software, which will be used for creating programs to run on the Linux-based Sharp Zaurus handheld computer.