VDC Analysis: Linux Leads in Embedded Systems

Oct 08, 2007

Manufacturers of embedded systems are choosing Linux more often than any other operating system; and the trend looks likely to continue, according to a forecast by market researchers Venture Development Corporation (VDC).

According to a current VDC survey, Linux is currently the leading platform for embedded systems. 40 percent of all developers are using the Linux operating system for current projects compared to 39 percent on commercial systems, 7 percent on in-house developments, and 11 percent how do not use a genuine operating system. And the future looks rosy for Linux: when asked which operating system they plan to deploy for the next projects, 87 percent of embedded technology engineers said they would be opting for Linux, compared to 12 percent who will choose a commercial system, and just one percent keeping in-house solutions.

The survey also distinguishes between free Linux distributions and commercial versions: of the 40 percent projects on Linux, 29 percent use free variants of Linux, compared to 11 percent on commercial Linux. And the trend to free systems will continue according to the survey: of the 87 percent of future users on Linux, 71 will be going in for a free distribution with just 16 percent preferring to purchase a commercial variant. The VDC analysts question the effect the continuing propagation of Linux will have on commercial suppliers. "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 Matt Volckmann, an analyst with VDC. Although most developers do not pay for their choice of Linux, VDC still sees commercial vendors such as MontaVista as the driving force behind new developments.

According to the VDC analysts, there are a number of reasons for embedded developers choosing Linux including the lack of license fees, good networking features, technical performance and the large numbers of developers who are familiar with Linux. "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 application types". VDC sees mobile phones as the future growth market, stating that Linux would quickly become the operating system of choice for telecommunications equipment manufacturers and providers. According to the market researchers, the race is currently on to offer the most comprehensive Linux-based standard.

Recently, process manufacturer ARM announced its own system for mobile applications (as we reported), and competitor Intel is working on similar lines in collaboration with Canonical.

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