Last fall, several companies in the newly emerging embedded Linux market approached me to request that I help create a vendor-neutral Embedded Linux trade association. Initially, I used the resources of my newly established Embedded Linux Portal web site (http://www.LinuxDevices.com/) to propose the establishment of a group called the “Embedded Linux Consortium” (ELC). The idea for the ELC rapidly picked up momentum.
Next, I scheduled an ELC organizational meeting to be held at the Chicago Embedded Systems Conference in March. The purpose would be to create a formation committee to fund the ELC and share responsibility for it until it was incorporated and a proper Board of Directors was elected.
March 1 came, and the ELC organizational meeting drew an overflow crowd—nearly double the expected turnout. We could instantly see that the ELC is destined to be a major force in the embedded market. During the first hour of the meeting, more than $100,000 was pledged to initially fund the organization. Also, Lineo donated the domain name, embedded-linux.org.
A week later, the birth of the ELC was broadcast via a press release that received extensive worldwide coverage (read it at http://www.embedded-linux.org/). The announcement lists the Formation Committee members, summarizes the organization's goals and includes this supporting statement from Linus: “This new Embedded Linux Consortium is an expression of the current explosion of interest in using Linux in thousands of specialized embedded, mobile and appliance applications. The ELC provides a valuable resource in advancing the growing use of Linux in embedded applications, an area where Linux can provide enormous benefit.”
Although official Vision and Mission statements will be established by the soon-to-be-elected Board of Directors, I indicated my thoughts on the subject in an “ELC Manifesto” posted at LinuxDevices.com and distributed at the ELC organizational meeting:
Suggested vision: the Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC) will be a nonprofit, vendor-neutral trade association whose goal is the advancement and promotion of Embedded Linux throughout the embedded, appliance and applied computing markets. Members will contribute membership dues and efforts in return for a growing market opportunity for all.
Suggested mission: to make Linux the number-one operating system of choice for developers designing embedded systems.
In short, by creating and supporting the Embedded Linux Consortium, we will maximize the depth and breadth of penetration of Linux within the enormous—and enormously diverse—embedded market.
We currently plan to have three membership categories: Corporate Executive Member ($5,000 per year), Corporate Affiliate Member ($1,000 per year) and Individual Member ($150 per year). Recognizing there are many individuals who contribute to the open-source code base which is the basis of Linux itself, I've also proposed that the $150 annual membership fee for Individual Members be waived in the case of individuals who have contributed significantly to the open-source code base.
The ELC's activities are likely to be along two main threads: technical and promotional. It's likely (although not required) that the Individual Members will be focused mostly on technical activities, whereas promotional and marketing activities will probably be more of a concern of the Corporate Members and, appropriately, funded primarily by them.
On the promotional side, I expect we'll have a marketing task force concerned with evangelizing embedded Linux. Most likely, there will be a web site, PR, trade shows, collateral materials and membership growth.
The technical role of the ELC is less clear than the evangelical role, in light of the enormous success the existing open-source development process has had in bringing Linux (and its related technologies) to where they are today. Nonetheless, it is certainly possible that technical committees or special interest groups will coalesce around issues of interest to multiple ELC members. Whether these translate into standards activity remains to be seen. In any case, the existing Linux and open-source development process must be supported, not circumvented or undermined.
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