Henry Kingman, editor of LinuxDevices, opened the
Embedded Linux Conference
with a look at the trends in embedded development since he started covering
the subject in 1999. Based largely on the annual surveys run by LinuxDevices,
his keynote speech highlighted the growth of Linux as an embedded operating
system as well as where it is headed in the next few years.
The conference, which started April 15 in Mountain View,
California, gathers around 175 embedded developers for three days of talks
on a wide variety of embedded topics. Sponsored by the
Consumer Electronics Linux Forum
(CELF), the conference has become the premier technical conference for the
ever-growing embedded Linux community. Each day has a keynote, with
kernel hacker Andrew Morton and CELF architecture group chair (and
conference organizer) Tim Bird rounding those out, followed by a half-dozen
presentations slots, with three parallel presentations.
Bird introduced Kingman as one of the main providers of news about embedded
Linux, relating that LinuxDevices and LWN.net are his "two main sources of
information" about the community. Bird marveled at the body of work that
Kingman has amassed: "this guy is prolific". He also reminisced a bit about
the early days of embedded Linux, starting with his days at Lineo to his
current work at Sony:
It was hard to get people to pay attention to Linux, now Sony is putting
Linux into almost everything.
Kingman acknowledged Bird's introduction, but said that he didn't know
"if that makes me an expert in the forest, or lost in the trees".
He looked back to a 1999 San Francisco Bay Linux Users Group meeting
with Linus Torvalds as the featured speaker. Kingman said that Torvalds
wanted Linux to be a desktop operating system but that he saw the embedded
space as the big growth area.
Later that year, Kingman attended the first
LinuxWorld conference where he saw some folks from Transmeta talking about
squashfs and cramfs. An article he wrote about those filesystems was
published by Rick Lehrbaum, founder
of LinuxDevices. That was the first of more than 3000 articles
Kingman has since written for LinuxDevices.
Kingman then presented the results of the most recent
reader survey. The survey gathers information about what LinuxDevices
readers are doing or planning with regard to embedded Linux development. It
has been run for eight years, providing some interesting information on changes
in the readers' attitudes over the years.
Usage of Linux in embedded development projects crossed a threshold this year,
with more than 50% of the 812 respondents saying that they are currently
using it. Usage of Linux has been
growing year over year, but didn't cross the halfway mark until 2008. More
than 61% believed their company would be using Linux within the next two years.
The ARM family of processors has continued its growth with 30% of the readers
using it, while 25% are using x86 variants. ARM overtook x86 three years ago;
that trend looks to be continuing with respondents seeing 31% ARM versus
23% x86 over the next two years. Kingman said that he thinks Intel is
trying to reverse that trend because spending on consumer devices is predicted
to "outstrip IT spending".
There were a couple of questions asking where respondents obtain the
version of Linux they use in their products. Ubuntu has a somewhat
surprising share at 8%. For a relatively new distribution that is not
specifically targeted at that market, it stands out, as does its predicted
growth to 10% over the next two years. Kernel.org at 16% and Debian at 14%
are the leading sources, with uClinux tied with Ubuntu and MontaVista and
Fedora at 6% each.
Unsurprisingly, per-unit royalties were not popular with two-thirds of
respondents being unwilling to pay those, but 60% were willing to pay for
development and support of embedded Linux, so it is not just the free-beer
aspect that is drawing companies to Linux. Most (45%) get their sources as a
free download from a community site like kernel.org or handhelds.org, with
18% getting them bundled with their hardware. Only 11% said that cost was
the greatest influence on their choice.
Legal threats are still on the minds of some, with copyright or patent
concerns being considered a significant threat to roughly half of the
respondents. SCO has fallen off the radar, with only 2.5% thinking that it
is still a threat. "None of the above" was the big winner, presumably
meaning that there are no significant threats, at 40%.
Kingman finished with a request of the embedded community to let him know
what things should be covered in more depth and any additional areas they
wish to see covered. He is looking for input on what the community wants
to talk about: "we want to be your website."
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