Look Out Transmeta!

Transmeta has the thunder, but Lineo has the lightning that comes with shipping an embedded Linux first
Written by Steven J.Vaughan Nichols, Contributor on

Lineo, a subsidiary of Caldera, began shipping its embedded Linux operating system Embedix Linux 1.0, yesterday.

Embedix Linux is specifically designed for x86 and PowerPC embedded systems use. With either processor, Embedix needs a modest PowerPC or x86 microprocessors, 8MBs of RAM and 3MB ROM or Flash memory.

For that, Embedix users get a POSIX compatible operating system, TCP/IP, a tiny Web server and serial networking. The software development kit (SDK), Embedix SDK 1.0, won't be out until Q2. The SDK will bring lower minimum hardware requirements, more embedded-specific Linux components, development tools and such third-party applications as VioSoft Arriba! for Embedix, an integrated development environment. The SDK also will include Embedix Target Wizard, a configuration tool that enables original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and integrators to pick and choose what Linux components to embed, check their interdependencies, and automate their installation and configuration.

A graphical Web browser and GUI also won't be available until the second quarter. Then, Lineo will release Embedix Browser 1.0, an embedded Web browser and browser components.

Transmeta's Mobile Linux has about the same requirements, but it's not due to ship--by the most optimistic estimates -- until the third quarter of 2000. At the same time, though, Embedix the operating system is here and available for free download from the company site.

Neither, however, are the first embedded Linuxes. While both bring more firepower to the battlefield, eCos, RTLinux and uClinux have already entrenched themselves. Some believe that it will be with these that Lineo will have to compete -- not Mobile Linux. That, however, doesn't take into consideration Embedix's newfound connection with Windows CE.

Lineo soon will be hard at work developing Lineo Embedix PDA, a Windows CE compatible embedded Linux software solution. What that means is that Embedix PDA will provide an application Windows CE compatible layer. That, in turn, means that Embedix PDA devices will run ported Windows CE programs. And this, of course, means that these CE-friendly embedded Linux will compete with Mobile Linux.

Why this connection, especially given Caldera's just settled lawsuit with Microsoft? Brian Sparks, Lineo's CEO, said, "We think that the CE GUI and API [application program interface] make for good applications." It's just "that the CE environment will work better with a solid embedded Linux behind it than the CE operating system.

But why would people buy it? Because, "We think we can compete with Microsoft on the cost level. We also think that by offering a CE applications program interface compatible level, we ease their transition to Linux. "By offering better functionality," Sparks believes that CE application designers will port their programs to Lineo's CE API.

Some had wondered whether or not, Microsoft has made this deal as part of their settlement with Caldera. Sparks, "categorically denies that the CE connection had anything to do with the lawsuit's settlement."

Just because they're in the same space doesn't mean that the embedded Linux companies will compete with each other. Sparks says that Lineo has, "absolutely no desire to compete with them." Instead, "We've talked with them a few weeks ago about possible partnerships." The Lineo CEO explains, "We think we'll be a good fit on the product side with them."

Sparks also believes that, "we'll be a beneficiary of their work." Indeed, Lineo has already received benefits from Transmeta work, "they've make it [embedded Linux] legitimate to many OEMs and Independent Software Vendors."

In fact, Sparks says that, "we've been surprised by the amount of interest from embedded OEMs in Linux." He believes, and not just because its his business, that the "next big growth area for Linux will be embedded Linux." And that, "2000 will be the year of embedded Linux."

How could a Lineo and Transmeta partnership work? Sparks says it can work with them on Mobile Linux development, software application development with Transmeta partners and device manufacturers.

That doesn't mean, however, that Lineo will port Embedix to Transmeta's Crusoe chip line. Sparks says, "We've been talking with them about possibly porting Embedix to Crusoe. But, it's a little early to target it because its details are still fuzzy. Still, "Obviously, we'll support the chip."

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