While Apple Debates Open vs Integrated, We Want the Best of Both Worlds
Embedded systems aren’t just the fastest growing market for Linux; they are one of the fastest growing sectors of computing. And in that segment, Linux growth continues to eclipse all other platforms.
Today, Linux-based systems are powering products and software that are household names: Android, Palm WebOS, Tivo, Sony, and more. But the majority of Linux use in this space is in traditional embedded systems such as machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, aerospace and defense, and networking, for example. These products typically consist of “roll your own” Linux comprised of upstream components such as the kernel, X, and glibc that run on top of a specific hardware product. Companies and developers in these markets, in particular, are able to leverage free software and build systems quickly and affordably. And while market-share clearly proves this system is working, at The Linux Foundation we have recognized there are even more places where the industry can collaborate to control costs and speed time to market.
The Linux Foundation has already launched efforts to enhance the growth of Linux in the embedded markets. One example is the Open Compliance Project, which allows consumer electronic and embedded systems vendors to quickly get up to speed with how the free and open source software community works so they can make sure they comply with their legal obligations at the lowest cost possible. This effort is backed by some of the largest names in computing: Cisco, IBM, HP, Sony, Motorola, and more. Today we are excited to significantly expand our embedded systems programs and reach to make the lives of consumer electronic and embedded systems vendors easier.
First, we are merging with a major consumer electronics Linux organization: the Consumer Electronics Linux Forum (CELF). CELF was founded in 2003 and is made up of the largest consumer device makers in the world: Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, NEC, Hitachi, and many more. Merging with CELF will enable our combined organizations to more effectively coordinate cross-industry collaboration in this fast growing computing sector. We plan on doubling the CELF technical programs budget in order to support projects that are important to consumer electronics use of Linux. We plan on providing more embedded Linux content at all Linux Foundation events to educate and train developers in this fast-growing sector. And we will expand our training program to cover things like performance tuning for embedded systems and even more device driver courses.
Finally, we are kicking off a program that will help make the lives of those who use Linux in embedded systems easier. We call it the “Yocto Project.” For those unfamiliar with the term, Yocto is one of the smallest units of measurement, ten to the minus 24th or a “septillionth.” This name fits because Yocto is an open source project that will provide high quality tools to help companies make small, custom Linux-based systems for embedded products, across any hardware architecture. This isn’t another version of Linux or another way to “solve fragmentation” - this is simply a set of tools that make the lives of those who build embedded Linux systems easier. So, while this project will help consolidate and accelerate the development of these types of tools, it will also help the users of those tools to create many MORE versions of Linux - specifically those targeted for their custom hardware.
Let’s face it - Steve Jobs and Apple have shown that blending software and hardware together in an elegant way can produce amazing results. Apple calls this their “integrated approach” and uses that to criticize the “open approach.” Our response is to help the Linux community have the best of both worlds with tools that allow anyone to take “open software” and create a custom “integrated experience” quickly. And while I can’t predict what the next iPhone or breakthrough consumer device will be, I do know that if the community comes together and develops tools that make it easier to create that device using upstream open source components, then what we’re announcing today will have have been successful — and so will Linux.