Thursday, December 29, 2005

Final Embedded Linux Highlights

Linux has emerged as a mainstream embedded technology. Once used mostly within smaller projects and research labs, Linux is now embraced as a key technology platform by large companies such as Sony, Motorola, Phillips, Panasonic, Siemens, and others. This trend has had an impact on embedded solutions vendors, and most have established strategies going forward either for supporting the development of Linux-based devices or countering the emerging Linux threat.

The Linux operating system is not uniquely designed with the requirements of the embedded developer in mind. The core focus of Linux has been on the server and desktop markets, and therefore its use in the embedded market has taken longer to become established. In addition to its substantial code size, Linux is not innately well equipped to manage system resources or handle strict real-time requirements as efficiently as smaller, more nimble embedded and real-time operating systems.

Yet, despite its inherent shortcomings within embedded environments, the Linux platform continues to steadily drive its way into the embedded market. Linux is gaining share within a wide number of embedded industry segments, as previous barriers to entry (such as the cost of processing power) diminish. The fact that companies continue to pursue the use of Linux in the embedded market in spite of its deficiencies speaks to the many advantages that the technology itself – as well as the open source model – can bring to embedded systems development.

In addition to Linux providing a transparent operating system environment, Linux developers can make use of a wide range of publicly existing device drivers, design systems using the latest communication protocols, more easily build robust graphical interfaces, supplement existing platforms with technology leveraged from the enterprise Linux domain, and enjoy royalty-free production licensing. As embedded developers continue to look to incorporate more functionality into new and existing designs at a lower cost, Linux can offer a proven, royalty free, open source alternative to proprietary operating system platforms.