ARM chips to run embedded Linux

Lineo signs deal to bring the penguin to portable devices

ARM, the UK embedded-chip designer, on Tuesday formalised a partnership to bring embedded Linux to its platform.

The company licenses low-power chip designs for portable devices including handheld computers and mobile phones, and has become the biggest provider of 16 and 32-bit embedded RISC processor solutions. Palm Computing, the biggest handheld computer maker, recently made the decision to move to the ARM platform with upcoming products.

So Tuesday's deal with Lineo, which makes embedded systems, is significant. The two companies said they will collaborate at an engineering level to bring Lineo's embedded Linux to microprocessors based on ARM cores. The Lineo operating system technologies to be adapted include Embedix, uClinux and RTXC.

Lineo said it is now shipping a software development kit for Embedix, version 2.0, that includes support for the ARM7 Thumb and ARM9 Thumb microprocessor families, and in the future will support the ARM10 Thumb family. "Customers are demanding solutions for the ARM family of microprocessors and we're providing them with those solutions today," said Lineo chief executive Bryan Sparks in a statement.

ARM made the announcement at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco, where it also announced a five-year partnership with Philips Semiconductors to provide Philips customers with access to ARM cores and supporting technology. ARM also launched DevZone, a Web site for developers to exchange information and get advice.

Microsoft does not play a significant role in the growing embedded operating systems market, but is making a play to become more important -- particularly because embedded Linux is beginning to catch on, according to industry analysts. The company recently signed up big-name partners such as Bally's video casino-game organisation, Fujitsu-Siemens' set-top box group and Siemens' factory robot group to help develop Windows XP Embedded.

Embedded processors and operating systems bring computing into non-traditional areas such as consumer products and small, mobile systems.

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