global positioning systems
anti-lock brakes and car infrastructure
Internet set-top boxes
environmental controls (thermostats, light and water irrigation systems)
industrial (e.g., assembly-line) automation
“These are categories where we already have customers or expect to have them as demand spreads,” Ball says. He expects demand to spread quickly because Linux's advantages lower the threshold of adoption well below competing operating systems, including familiar embedded operating systems such as Wind River, ISI and QNX. These virtues include open OS code source, an in-place worldwide support infrastructure, a huge developer community and base of knowledge, and relatively easy code adaptation across different processor types. “Linux is the Switzerland of Internet connectivity and infrastructure,” Ball adds. “You're not making NetWare Internet-savvy here. You're taking something that's extremely native to the Net and adapting it to a whole class of new Net-native devices. And you're doing it with the support of many thousands of Linux developers, all over the world, vs. relatively few working for proprietary embedded OS companies. That's why our community is bypassing the development schedules that have determined embedded growth in the past, and accelerating a whole new schedule. We're putting the embedded Linux growth schedule on Internet time.”
Linus Torvalds seems to agree. He has been talking up embedded Linux for a while now, and his employer, Transmeta, has more or less the same intentions as Lineo.
“Now you can imagine a Coke machine as a Net-native connected device,” Ball says. This might have been thinkable in the old embedded processing world, but it wasn't do-able because there wasn't a Net-native embedded OS that was familiar to the very people who are doing the most to deploy the Net itself. Now that it's do-able, it will be very interesting to watch the progress across Lineo's list of market categories.
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