An industry alliance has been established to promote the use of Linux in embedded applications.
Some 50 companies including IBM, Motorola and Red Hat are backing the Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC), announced at the System Builder Summit in California this week.
ELC aims to advance Linux-based technology in embedded applications such as internet appliances, unattended systems, wireless access, home networks and set top boxes.
Chairman Rick Lehrbaum said: "Linux is now the fastest growing operating system for server applications. The embedded computer market, which absorbs more than 95 per cent of all microcomputer chips minted each year, is the next frontier."
Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux, said that the consortium is "an expression of the current explosion of interest in using Linux in thousands of specialised embedded, mobile, and appliance applications."
The lower speed Crusoe chip, the TM5400 - a 700Mhz chip - is optimised for Linux which Torvalds claims should be aimed for growth in the non-PC applicance market.
Analysts were divided in their endorsement of the consortium. Paul Zorfass, senior analyst with IDC, said: "Linux is beginning to establish a presence in the diverse embedded market where its reliability, modularity, scalability and low cost are extremely attractive."
"The ELC comes at just the right moment to aid the emerging trend of using Linux as the operating system within a wide range of intelligent appliances and embedded systems," he added.
Ashim Pal, Meta Group analyst, said that the use of embedded web servers would grow, as they are included in products such as set-top boxes and Wap phones to store content. He said a cheaper alternative to Microsoft tools would be welcomed.
The open nature of Linux means it can be developed for specific functions, such as embedded systems, rather than all-encompassing Windows systems, he added.
"NT is perceived as unstable because it is designed to do multiple things. If you have access to the code, as with Linux, the operating system can be developed for a single use. That's why a mobile phone never crashes."
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