Motorola buys embedded Linux pioneer

Embedix will be folded into a Motorola subsidiary in an endorsement of Linux's growing importance for device makers

Motorola's Metrowerks subsidiary has moved to beef up its ability to supply software and development tools for non-PC gadgets with the acquisition of Embedix -- one of the first companies to put Linux into embedded hardware.

Embedix, formerly known as Lineo, sells Linux operating system kernels for handheld devices, digital television set-top boxes and home Internet gateways, Linux OS-based development tools and middleware for electronics designers. The development tools will be sold alongside Metrowerks' own development tools and those of Applied Microsystems, recently acquired by Metrowerks.

The tools are aimed at making it easier for companies to create embedded devices such as set-top boxes, cash registers, kiosks and handheld computers based on Linux. Embedded devices include the wide variety of computing machines that are not PCs.

Although Metrowerks now owns the Embedix operating system software -- which is best known for powering a line of Zaurus handhelds from Sharp -- it will also support software from other embedded Linux vendors including LynuxWorks, TimeSys and MontaVista.

The move will bring some stability to Embedix, which has undergone several rounds of layoffs and recapitalisation. The backing of a big name such as Motorola could also encourage embedded device makers to take Linux seriously as a contender against competition such as Microsoft's various flavours of embedded Windows, and other proprietary operating systems such as those of VXworks and Wind River Systems.

"Metrowerks' acquisition of Embedix... represent a comprehensive set of choices for customers looking for embedded Linux solutions on Motorola's market-leading communication processors," said David Perkins, vice president and general manager of Motorola's Networking and Computing Systems Group, in a statement. The group supports competitors' chips as well as Motorola's own processors.

Metrowerks has created a business unit called Metrowerks Linux Solutions Group to bring together the Embedix products and other Linux-based tools.

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