MontaVista Introduces Linux for CE Devices

Just in time for CES, MontaVista introduces a Linux for consumer electronics products, such as phones, TVs and set-top boxes. What makes it different from any other embeddded Linux?

Power management, more drivers and ISV partnerships are the key new features of MontaVista's new Consumer Electronics Edition announced Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

MontaVista counts 4 out of 5 of the top consumer electronics manufacturers worldwide as customers. In an interview before the announcement, Scott Hedrick, senior product marketing manager at MontaVista, said the company is introducing the new edition to meet demand.

Among the design wins for MontaVista's Linux distribution and other tools being presented at CES is the Sony CoCoon Channel Server. The CoCoon is an only-in-Japan PVR that accepts commands from customers' wireless phones and can share TV entertainment around the house wirelessly.

Among the key features of the new Linux edition is power management work in the drivers. Although a power management infrastructure exists in the kernel, some drivers in their stock form don't take advantage of it. As usual, MontaVista is actively pushing its work back to the standard kernel. MontaVista also is promoting some more advanced power management ideas to kernel hackers for future releases, said Joe Samagond, director of marketing and corporate communications. The new edition also offers support for execute-in-place (XIP), to reduce memory requirements.

Another important benefit of the new edition is complete driver support for increasingly full featured development platforms, Samagond said. Development kits are adding networking and multimedia capabilities, and MontaVista offers drivers for all the hardware on the board.

The first targets to be supported under the Consumer Electronics Edition are the Innovator, a PDA-sized development platform for wireless and handheld products from Texas Instruments, and the PowerPC 405LP, a version of the PowerPC processor from IBM with advanced power management features.

TI's Innovator looks like a tool for killer elevator demos: it allows developers to show off their applications on a lightweight, easy-to-handle device before the final hardware is done. Unlike a regular PDA, and like an embedded development kit, it accepts expansion boards.

More Software Partners

"Consumer electronics devices need support from the ISV community," Hedrick said. Among the compatible applications available are Trolltech's QT and Qtopia, the Opera web browser, Intervideo's DVD CCA-licensed DVD playback software and Macrovision's copy-restriction system, which is mandatory in the US for consumer VCRs.

The MontaVista development tools are hosted under Red Hat 7.2 and 7.3 or under Microsoft Windows 2000 with VMWare. The Consumer Electronics Edition joins a general-purpose release, MontaVista Linux, and the company's other targeted distribution, MontaVista Linux Carrier Grade Edition, for telecommunications.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.