Cygnus Solutions has developed an open source realtime operating system (OS) to rival Microsoft's Windows CE.
eCos is aimed at the consumer electronics, telecommunications and automotive markets for use in embedded products, and can be downloaded royalty-free from the company's web site, along with HTML documentation and open-source licensing terms. Some 7,284 copies have already been downloaded.
Alex Daly, Cygnus? chief executive, said: "By delivering eCos as open-source software, Cygnus provides the infrastructure for delivering a variety of smart embedded devices that share compatible software and can interoperate over the Internet."
He also claimed eCos would significantly cut the cost of development and increase the speed of innovation for Internet connected devices, and at least one analyst agrees.
Jerry Krasner, research editor for Electronic Market Forecasters, said: "eCos represents a trend-setting milestone for the embedded software development industry. Our recent Hardware Development and Co-development Tools study indicates that embedded developers prefer purchasing from a company that supports open industry standards and offers superior technical response."
"By positioning eCos as an open and royalty-free real-time operating system and ensuring that it is portable across multiple architectures due to linkage with Cygnus' GNUPro' Toolkit, Cygnus has addressed the expressed desires of many embedded developers," he added.
eCos enables users to manage a variety of digital devices from home appliances to manufacturing equipment, but connecting such devices to the Internet should increase demand for real-time operating systems, Cygnus attests.
As a result, Cygnus? Daly believes that twice as many small devices and appliances as PCs will be connected to the Internet by 2001.
But because the OS is free, the company claims that eCos presents a challenge to established vendors such as Microsoft, which has positioned its Windows CE OS as a low-price offering for the embedded market.
However, it charges manufacturers $35-40 per machine, and in the consumer electronics industry, in particular, even a small decrease in product prices can be a huge advantage.
eCos source code supports multiple processor platforms, all kernel components, HAL layers, 5ITRON configuration, C run-time, math libraries, and drivers, and Cygnus makes $20 million a year from selling commercial versions of the Free Software Foundations Gnu tools to embedded systems developers working with eCos.
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