The Latest from Lineo

by David Penni

As the cooing subsides in the wake of Transmeta's entry into the Linux Internet appliance market, Lineo has stepped out in front with the release of Embedix Linux 1.0 and a deal with Bast Inc. to install Embedix-based Web browsers in hotel rooms and apartment buildings in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Said Bryan Sparks, CEO of Lineo: "Hotels and apartment buildings are now installing high-speed Internet connectivity in rooms and apartments in order to serve their customers better. These Embeddix-based set-top devices allow customers to take advantage of high-speed network connections without paying the high costs of traditional computer hardware."

Embedix is Lineo's flagship product. The version shipping today, Embedix 1.0, is geared toward x86 and PowerPC devices, and includes a small Web server and support for network protocols, Web services and serial networking. Embedix Linux uses a minimum of 8MB of RAM and 3MB of ROM or Flash memory and is based on the 2.2 version of the Linux kernel.

Bast Inc. specializes in high speed, Ethernet based Web browsing hardware for television display. Including wireless keyboards and pointing devices, Bast's products are found in hotels, major apartment complexes and in financial institutions. According to Bob Pincus, president of Bast Inc., the company's distribution channel and initial marketing is toward "solution providers" who are installing either DSL or T-1 lines in major hotel chains and larger apartment complexes. Bast Inc. recently has completed a deal with CMRx2 of Portland, Oregon, a company providing high speed Internet access in mid-level hotel chains such as Red Roof Inns. Mr. Pincus noted an initial commitment of 10,000 units.

"For consumers, having Internet access is quickly becoming an absolute necessity," he added. "Not everyone owns or travels with a laptop, but with these devices, customers can still send and receive e-mail and browse the Web. Embedix provided us (with) the flexibility we needed to offer our customers an easy-to-use, low-cost tool to use the Web."

Bast Inc. Internet appliances differ from offerings such as Web TV primarily by the high speed access the former provides. "Web TV is analog modem speed only. The Bast product . . . has a faster CPU, more SDRAM and Flash ROM, and clearly more robust operating system than the present competition." That "robust operating system" is Embedix Linux.

And, once again, cost was a major selling point. Said Mr. Pincus: "We looked at a number of embedded RTOS, but chose to go with Embedded Linux as it offered the most cost efficient solution. The ability to change operating instructions in our unit via open source Linux, plus the ease and cost of implementing the changes was not matched by any other operating system."

Elitegroup Computing, based in Taipei, Taiwan, will manufacture the hardware for the set-top devices. The company is a major motherboard manufacturer whose P6BXT-A+ has received accolades from a variety of computer publications, mostly in Germany, Canada and Japan.

The agreement gives Bast Inc. 50,000 licenses to produce Embeddix-based set-top devices, each currently available for $285 each.


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