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Linux Advocacy in Embedded Systems
San Jose, CA USA September 30th, 1999As I mentioned yesterday, the Embedded Systems Conference has come at a very critical time for vendors using Linux, thinking about usng Linux or running companies based on Linux. It has provided a good opportunity for a lot of key players to come together, meet, exchange ideas and form partnerships for the future. One project coming into focus as a result of that is advocacy for Linux in embedded systems.
Lineo held a client meeting this morning with many of their partners and potential partners to discuss ways to promote Linux in the embedded systems market. They asked for feedback on the idea of creating an entity to promote and advocate Linux on embedded systems. They got a very positive response overall. Discussion ranged around the idea of forming a non-profit, vendor-based group like Linux International, but focused on Linux on embedded systems.
Why is a separate organization being considered for embedded systems? That's a good question. Taking a look at the existing computer market does provide some answers, though. Embedded systems is a highly technical area with its own jargon. Historically, the mainstream press has followed this area only very superficially, if at all. Note as a result the success of magazines like EETimes, which focus on it more narrowly. The concerns of the vendors currently involved in Linux International are not necessarily the same as the vendors in the embedded systems area.
Most importantly, though, these people feel like, in the embedded space, they are really at the beginning. Linux is trickling into people's awareness in the embedded space only slowly. We're looking at a show here with only a handful of vendors fully identified with Embedded Linux. They want the opportunity to band together and say, "We understand just how exciting the potential of Linux is in embedded systems. We want to show other people how exciting it is, so the groundswell can build, so that our businesses can build. We want to mark a piece of this new territory for ourselves, but yet do everything we can to make sure the territory is so vast, there is room for many, many more."
Of course, given that this discussion took place at a client meeting, it did not include Lineo's closest competitors in the market, Cygnus and Montavista. Some of the partners present, though, were pleased enough with the idea to immediately take it back to Jim Ready at Montavista and Michael Tiemann at Cygnus, who also got an opportunity to discuss it in more detail with Lyle Ball and Tim Bird from Lineo. Clearly, of course, Lineo hoped for a benefit from introducing the idea to their clients first, before involving Montavista and Cygnus and Jim and Michael were certainly aware of this positioning. The goal, though, was important and one they very much support: promotion and advocacy of Linux in the embedded systems market. As a result, they agreed to join the discussion to determine the best way to achieve this shared goal, via a new organization, a working group of Linux International, or whatever else develops.
Both Lineo and Montavista have reserved domain name spaces that will be made available to a non-profit group if it is decided to go that direction. Lineo has reserved emlab.org, for "Embedded Linux Advisory Board" and Montavista has available embedlinux.net. While decisions about new organization or no organization, one name or another, are in abeyance, the http://www.emlab.org site will contain a full transcript of Lineo's client meeting in the near future. They have also made a mailing list available: email@example.com which is open to all. For subscription information, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note that, if a vendor-based organization to promote Linux is formed, it must be vendor neutral to be of value. Having Cygnus, Montavista and Lineo all involved from the very beginning will be critical to the future success of any advocacy. Lest you get the idea, though, that these companies would be operating within a vacuum, please note that this morning's meeting including people from QED, MCG, Trolltech, IBM, National Semiconductor, Intel, Zentropics, 3Com and more. Nor would the open source developer community be left out. The Linux Router Project was invited to this morning's meeting, but unable to send a representative. Other development projects in the embedded space are also welcome. The objective viewpoint of the community projects is needed to season this group of business and marketing people, to keep them on track with the ideals of the community and, in exchange, to validate what they are trying to do.
What exactly would they try to do? Board or no board, advocacy will probably work on trade show presence, such as a Linux Pavilion at next year's Embedded Systems Conference, presentations, white papers, and interaction with the press. A job board for people wanting work with Linux in embedded systems was mentioned. Ideas for standards for embedded Linux or for funding open source development in the embedded systems area were discussed, but set aside as possibly too divisive, until everyone has a chance to meet, interact and decide where to go next.
So keep an eye out! If Linux on embedded systems is dear to your heart, sign up on the mailing list and help work to make something good happen. No matter the outcome, it has been exciting to be here at the conference, to meet the people involved and to get a confirmation of the vast potential for Linux in the embedded systems marketplace. Another piece of the world domination puzzle is falling into place.
Eklektix, Inc. all rights
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