Embedded Linux and Java—Wave of the Future?

Rick contemplates the coming exponential proliferation of smart devices using Java + Linux.
A Couple of High-Profile Examples

One interesting example of a product based on a combination of embedded Java + Linux is a consumer entertainment system that was recently announced by Hewlett-Packard. The HP Digital Entertainment Center is basically a home-entertainment appliance that brings digital music and information via broadband and home networks into the living room, without a PC. The system connects like an audio component to a normal home stereo system and can be used to burn custom CDs, create/store/organize MP3 files on its large internal hard disk, transfer music to digital music players and listen to internet radio.

The HP Digital Entertainment Center

“HP embraced Linux for consumer appliances because of its open-source and community support”, explains William Woo, general manager of Hewlett-Packard's Embedded Software Operation. He adds:

We have customized Linux for use as an HP embedded OS and combined it with our HP Chai technology to create an embedded software solution with a Java application environment and web connectivity. HP Chai supports Java applications for delivering e-services to create a rich consumer experience.

Another high-profile, Linux-based device that makes a point of its support for Java applications, of course, is Sharp's new Zaurus PDA. “The Zaurus SL-5000D offers incredible potential for the developer community”, said Steve Petix, associate vice president of Sharp's Mobile & IT Solutions Group. “We are excited to support both Linux and Java developers as they create next-generation mobile applications for this powerful new platform.”

Wave of the Future?

In the exciting new post-PC world of pervasive computing, we'll be surrounded by an exponentially growing number and variety of intelligent, interconnected devices. But the challenges associated with developing, maintaining and supporting increasingly sophisticated system architectures and protocols also will grow exponentially.

Looked at from this perspective, the emerging popularity of Java technology as a well-supported application and services framework for devices, offers an enticing possibility of ready-to-use software components that can be used along with embedded Linux, to speed and simplify device development and to enhance the capabilities of the end product.


Rick Lehrbaum (rick@linuxdevices.com) created the LinuxDevices.com “embedded Linux portal”. Rick has worked in the field of embedded systems since 1979. He cofounded Ampro Computers, founded the PC/104 Consortium and was instrumental in creating and launching the Embedded Linux Consortium.