In response to a Slashdot discussion item on the growing use of Linux in embedded applications (located here), Jacob Lehrbaum of LinuxDevices.com posted the following comment . . .
I find this article (see ZDNet story: located here) interesting, as I've watched the attention paid to embedded Linux grow since the summer, a time when it was a far less mature market. The splitting off of Lineo from Caldera was one of the more interesting developments that I've seen, although the purchase of Cygnus by Redhat also added to the legitimacy of the market. With the recent CPU announcement by the Silicon Valley 'wunderkind' Transmeta, embedded Linux has really entered a more mainstream commercial phase.
The article on ZDNet helped to point out some of the majors issues in the industry. Who wants to pay for the 250 licenses needed for even a smallscale embedded application. It may mean less to the typical consumer who might pay $90 for a copy of windows, but I really think the cost issue associated with embedded Linux applications is way more relevant than in the server or desktop market. It doesn't make a big difference if you pay $250 for software on a $16,000 server compared to buying a Software license for say $30-40 on a $200 portable web device.
Another good point they brought up is ease of use. It doesn't matter to the endconsumer what OS the product uses, as long as it performs as expected, and without high incidence of failure (high being relative). Many of the companies in the embedded linux software side of the market provide technical support as a primary source of income (Linuxcare, MontaVista, Zentropix, Lynx, etc.). Although some companies such as Lineo appear to be pursuing a more license based approach (although still providing plenty of technical support). Hopefully the end result will still be a savings of cost, but the high amount of technical support provided by these companies should help to offset any difficulty in actually using linux as the core of these applications.
Other benefits not explored in the article include portability, the 'open source' ability to take an already extant solution and modify to suit your individual projects, as well as the ability to advance or modify a project that may have been discontinued, or to correct bugs without waiting for the original programmers to take action.
Embedded projects are often so unique that a non-custom solution is often useless. The ability to customize Linux combined with its low cost of use really makes this appropriate for this industry. I don't think the ZDNet article was worthless, and it in fact brought to light some points that people might not realize about embedded applications. It may seem like its just repeating stuff that people have always been talking about, but I think it was worth repeating and highlighting for this specific market. I see the success of embedded linux continuing to grow, and perhaps to exceed the growth that Linux is seeing in other markets.
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.