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Embedded Linux declining?

Oct 8, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

An EE Times Europe reader poll found that Linux still leads in planned usage of embedded operating systems (OSes), but that the percentage is declining. About a third of respondents planned to use embedded Linux in future projects, down from about half the year before, claims the survey.

The poll, which was conducted in September, found that 33 percent of respondents said they were planning to use Linux for a future embedded project, compared to 49 percent the year before. Meanwhile, 26 percent of respondents said they would use a commercial OS, up from 15 percent a year ago, says EE Times Europe. Some 16 percent said they would use an in-house OS, compared to 14 percent the previous year, and 25 percent of embedded engineers say their projects won't require an OS, up from 22 percent.

The survey was conducted as a “straw poll,” with a self-selecting audience, cautions EE Times Europe, which did not reveal the number of respondents in the poll. The poll was conducted as a single-question survey on the website's front page. Presumably, the readers were primarily located in Europe.

Or is it?

By comparison, the annual LinuxDevices Embedded Linux Market Survey indicates that planned Linux use is still on the rise among our readers. Whereas the 2007 survey showed 59.3 percent of respondents planned to use Linux in the next two years, the 2008 survey saw that figure move to 61.5 percent. Next in line for planned OS use was MS Windows (9.8 percent), followed by proprietary in-house (7.1 percent) and VxWorks (5.9 percent).

Recent market research reports generally show embedded Linux holding a lead, if not expanding in embedded device development. For example, a year ago, President John Andrews of Evans Data Corp. (EDC) summarized his group's most recent study of 500 embedded system developers by referring to a “growing move towards Linux.”. In a separate summary finding on the same report, EDC noted that some 40 percent of the survey's 500 respondents were targeting embedded Linux.

In April, meanwhile, VDC released results from its annual survey of embedded engineers and found that Linux once again reigned as the leading embedded OS. The study reported that 18 percent of respondents were using embedded Linux, up from 15.5 percent back in 2004.

Thus, the EE Times survey results seem anomalous. It is tempting to conclude that the publication's hardcore coverage of deeply embedded hardware topics like power and analog circuits may appeal more to traditional embedded developers than to embedded Linux developers. Perhaps embedded Linux developers are able to focus on adding value through software, rather than lower down the stack, in the OS and hardware?


The EE Times Europe story on the poll results can be found here, and last year's EE Times Europe survey report may be found here.

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