Mixed fortunes for embedded Linux

Companies selling Linux for embedded devices take one step back and one forward as once-hot Embedix is acquired by Motorola and rival MontaVista gets $28 million from Toshiba.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Companies selling Linux for embedded devices such as set-top boxes took one step back and one forward Tuesday as Motorola agreed to acquire once-hot Embedix, formerly called Lineo, and Toshiba invested in MontaVista Software.

Motorola's Metrowerks subsidiary, which sells the CodeWarrior programming tool package, will take over Embedix's software and about 30 of its employees under the acquisition plan. The move will give Metrowerks three versions of Lineo's Embedix operating system--for handheld computers, digital televisions and home networking devices--as well as the programming kit to configure the software.

While Embedix's software powers Sharp's Zaurus handheld computer, the company didn't sell its software widely enough to remain independent.

Back when Linux was a hot ticket to initial public offerings, Embedix went on a buying spree, snapping up more than a half-dozen embedded Linux companies. But the collapse of technology investor enthusiasm led the company to scrap its IPO plan and spin off several assets.

The terms of the deal weren't disclosed. The acquisition is expected to close shortly, pending some approvals, the companies said. Most of the Embedix employees will remain in the company's Lindon, Utah, facilities, but some will move to Metrowerks' Austin, Texas, offices, said Jeff Tieszen, a Metrowerks spokesman.

To manage the Embedix software and other Linux work, Metrowerks has created a new business unit--the Linux Solutions Group--headed by Chief Technology Officer Berardino Baratta, according to a Metrowerks statement.

Metrowerks will continue to support versions of embedded Linux other than Embedix in its programming tools, including versions from MontaVista, LynuxWorks, and TimeSys.

Meanwhile, Lineo competitor MontaVista said Tuesday that consumer-electronics giant Toshiba participated in a $28 million funding round announced in January. Other consumer-electronics companies that invested during that round are Sony, Yamaha, Panasonic and NEC.

MontaVista has created a version of Linux to work on Toshiba's TMPR3927 and TMPR4927 processors, which are chips based on MIPS designs and geared for devices such as printers, DVD players, game consoles and set-top boxes.

MontaVista, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., remains independent, but it's had tough times also, including layoffs in 2001.