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Broadcom joins Linux Foundation, says Linux is cool after all

Jan 10, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Wireless chipset maker Broadcom joined the Linux Foundation, suggesting that it will release more open source drivers for Linux. Over the last month, Timesys, Protecode, and Mentor Graphics have also joined the nonprofit Linux advocacy organization.

Broadcom has long been seen as something of a villain by the open source Linux community, but the wireless semiconductor vendor began mending fences in September when it released an open source Linux driver for its latest 802.11n chipsets.

Now Broadcom has taken the next step by joining the nonprofit Linux Foundation (LF), increasing the likelihood that more Linux drivers and support will follow.

Broadcom's 802.11n driver was recently integrated into the latest Linux kernel release 2.6.37. As a result, the driver "is actively being improved upon by the entire Linux community," says the Linux Foundation (LF). The driver supports Broadcom BCM4313, BCM43224, BCM43225 Wi-Fi chipsets, enabling Linux distributions to include native support for these popular chips.

Broadcom says it will continue its work with the Linux Driver Project, and plans to participate in the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit.

In addition, Michael Hurlston, senior vice president & general manager, Broadcom's WLAN line of business, had these kind words for Tux: "There is no question: Linux has become a major platform for communications devices and technologies. Our decision to open source the drivers for Broadcom's 802.11 chipsets is in response to our growing base of customers using Linux, and is the first of what we expect to be many open development success stories."

The September driver release was more than just a strategic gesture. This will begin to remove one of the biggest obstacles to desktop Linux users in particular: setting up Wi-Fi devices. Linux distros often require users to replace Broadcom's proprietary firmware with custom firmware to get many Broadcom-based wireless devices to work, and other Broadcom chips have been completely unsupported.

Broadcom also plays several key roles in the embedded Linux ecosystem as well, particularly in regards to Android. Last month, the company announced a dual-core ARM11 baseband platform that exclusively targets affordable Android phones. The Broadcom BCM2157 SoC (system-on-chip) combines an applications processor with 3G HSDPA modem connectivity, GPS, NFC, and 30fps H.264 encode/decode.

Stated Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs at the Linux Foundation, "Broadcom understands what almost every major technology company today knows — that collaborative, open development results in benefits that include everything from supported hardware to reduced development costs."

Mentor Graphics, Protecode, and Timesys join LF

Tech firms continue to flock to the Linux Foundation, and as we noted last month when Huawei joined the group, most of the recent crop appear to be focused on the embedded market.

In addition to Broadcom, memberships announced over the last month include:

  • Mentor Graphics — On Dec. 15, shortly after announcing it had acquired most of the assets of GNU-based toolchain vendor CodeSourcery, Inc., a mainstay of embedded Linux, Mentor Graphics said it was joining the LF.

    In July 2009, 20-year old RTOS vendor Mentor Graphics made a bid to compete with the likes of Wind River and MontaVista by acquiring embedded Linux vendor Embedded Alley. Mentor has since gone in to announce a Linux and Android ports and support packages for a variety of embedded processor platforms, including most recently, NetLogic's MIPS-based XLP, XLR, and XLS multicore SoCs.

    Stated Glenn Perry, general manager of Mentor Graphics Embedded Software Division, "The promise of embedded Linux is being realized and developers are seeking tools and resources to support their work with this OS. The Linux Foundation is increasing its focus on embedded projects to help accelerate the Linux platform in this area."

  • Protecode — This provider of products and services for open source software licensing and copyright management, software intellectual property (IP) management, code portfolio mapping, and IP due diligence joined the LF on Jan. 4. Protecode is also joining the LF's Open Compliance Program, a program launched in August intended to help companies comply with open source licenses.

    Stated Kamal Hassin, director of product management, Protecode, "The Linux Foundation's Open Compliance Program provides a critical and collaborative resource to address the maturing software development environment."

  • Timesys — A familiar name to LinuxDevices readers, Timesys was one of the first companies to deliver an open source, commercial-grade, embedded Linux development framework, with its LinuxLink DIY subscription service. In addition to joining the LF on Jan. 6, Timesys will also participate in Linux Foundation events, such as the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit and the Embedded Linux Conference.

    Recent Timesys products include a Qt-based LinuxLink Rich Multimedia User Interfaces (Rich MUI) subscription for higher-level multimedia and interface development, as well as the LinuxLink Free Edition, a free "cloud" version of its Linux development platform. Last month, Timesys announced a partnership with Freescale Semiconductor to offer LinuxLink support for Freescale's "Tower" development systems.

    Stated Atul Bansal, CEO, Timesys, "The Linux Foundation is playing a key role in helping the embedded Linux market segment successfully reach maturity, and we want to signal our ongoing commitment to helping advance that agenda while contributing to important initiatives that make embedded Linux development easy."

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