LONDON Embedded system manufacturers are increasingly committing to Linux as the operating system of choice, and this migration from more traditional and commercial operating systems is set to continue, according to market research group Venture Development Corporation (VDC).
A recent survey by VDC (Natick, MA) suggests the majority of current Linux users surveyed plan to use Linux again as their primary operating system on future projects.
Asked which operating system they would use in their next project, 71 percent of embedded system engineers who responded said they would opt for Linux on a free distribution basis, 16 percent would use Linux on a paid distribution basis, 12 percent planned to use a commercial OS while just 1 percent indicated they would stick with an in-house developed OS.
Corresponding percentages for the OS used on their current project indicated 39 percent for commercial operating systems, 29 percent for Linux (free distribution), 11 percent Linux (paid distribution) 7 percent an in house OS, while 11 percent indicated they do not use a formal OS.
VDC says Linux remains an attractive operating system choice for a range of embedded development teams for a number of reasons, including: royalty free run-time costs, advanced networking capabilities and technical features and the large base of engineers familiar with the OS.
"Linux has proven itself to be well suited for a wide range of applications across various industries, and continues to gain market share, despite not being particularly well matched for certain embedded applications types," said Matt Volckmann, Senior Analyst/Program Manager with VDC's Embedded Software Practice. "Changes in the way that systems are designed will also allow Linux to continue to penetrate into segments of the market where the lack of capability was previously perceived as a barrier."
Volckmann suggests a more complex question is how opportunities for commercial solution suppliers will progress given the promise of more widespread Linux adoption in the embedded market. Currently, a majority of Linux projects do not obtain their Linux distributions from commercial suppliers. However, innovation within embedded Linux to date has relied heavily on support from commercial suppliers like MontaVista and others to make Linux a more viable operating system option within the embedded market.
"At the root of most of the challenges faced by commercial suppliers is the question of how to bring significant additional value to an operating system that is freely available, continually improving, increasingly supported by embedded system/component suppliers, and in demand from companies interested in decreasing their overall development costs and/or bill of materials," says Volckmann.
While Linux has found its way into a number of embedded sectors, one of the key opportunities for the open source OS over the next several years will be in the mobile phone market, where it is quickly becoming a leading application operating system, and manufacturers and telecom operators are rallying to drive more comprehensive, industry-specific Linux-based standards.