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Article: Inder Singh: address to the ELC Meeting

Sep 29, 2000 — by Rick Lehrbaum — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Foreword: the following talk on the state of Embedded Linux and the status and goals of the Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC) was given by Inder Singh, ELC Chairman (and CEO of LynuxWorks), at the first bi-annual membership meeting of the ELC held on September 28, 2000 in San Jose, CA . . .

We are holding this meeting at an important juncture for the ELC. You may call this a kind of “coming of age” party for the ELC. Only six months ago, at the last ESC in Chicago, the first organizational meeting was held, at the initiative of Rick Lehrbaum, to set up the consortium, and the Formation Committee was established. I would like to take this occasion to express my appreciation for the efforts of Rick Lehrbaum and the participants in the Formation Committee in getting the consortium off the ground.

Since that first meeting, the ELC charter and bylaws have been formalized, and we have elected a board of directors and elected the officers in an open, democratic process. At the same time, largely through the tireless efforts of Murry Shohat, who has been something of a one man band, we have participated in several trade shows, established a web site, generated numerous press releases, and in general received very good press coverage. And our membership has surged past the 100 mark.

Now it is time to move on the next stage, to start offering an expanded set of programs that will have an impact on the embedded industry and provide real value to our membership.

This is an exciting time for an organization like ours. I believe the software industry is at an important inflection point — one of those junctures when several important trends, or drivers, converge to cause a major transformation in the market, and create new opportunities.

Thanks to Moore's law, the semiconductor industry now provides us with inexpensive 32-bit CPUs and memory for embedded applications — MIPs and MBytes have become practically free. System-on-Chip (SOC) processors based on 32-bit CPU cores are dramatically reducing the cost of putting substantial intelligence in embedded products.

Secondly, the Internet phenomenon which has spawned a host of new applications, including a whole emerging generation of new Internet connected devices as well as vastly expanding the opportunities for embedded software in the communications infrastructure. Also, connectivity has become a basic requirement of most embedded systems.

As a result of these trends, the number of embedded applications is exploding. Even more important, the complexity of embedded systems is mushrooming. I know of dozens of products being developed by our customers priced at under $1000, which involve teams of over a hundred software developers.

Which leads to the third major trend in embedded software — Linux. The momentum of Linux over the last couple of years is beyond anything we have ever seen for an operating system. The focus of the world has been on Linux in the server market, but I am convinced that Linux will have its biggest play in the embedded world.

It is in the fragmented embedded world that Linux can fill the critical need for a unifying platform. The desktop software industry really took off after the arrival of DOS on the PC, followed by Windows. Embedded Linux will provide a similar platform around which an embedded software and service industry can flourish. Just walking around ESC, you can see all kinds of software products that proclaim Linux support. There is also a growing number of software tools and other products supporting Linux from the mainstream markets that can be used for embedded systems, especially as these systems are getting much more complex, and becoming more like mainstream systems. The popularity of any OS is directly related to the availability of software applications.

Linux also provides the best means for tracking the technology curve. Embedded systems cover a wide range of hardware architectures, and supporting the latest and greatest semiconductor device with your software application is a challenge. The SOC trend is further proliferating the number of devices that require software support. Linux is rapidly becoming the OS of choice for out-of-the-box software support for any new semiconductor device. Free source availability, no royalties, a large community of developers and suppliers, and broad acceptance as an open, vendor neutral platform make Linux a natural choice.

Another observation — in the emerging post-PC era, the action is shifting away from the desktop, and towards the Network on the one hand, the server based applications and services and network infrastructure, and on the other hand towards network connected devices of all kinds, such as Internet appliances, set-top boxes, connected PDAs, and Internet enabled cell phones. Linux is the only OS that is seeing big-time traction at both ends of this new architecture. And I believe the potential for Linux at the device end is much greater than at the server end.

Between these three drivers — inexpensive and powerful SOC devices, the Internet phenomenon, and embedded Linux — the embedded software industry is in for some exciting changes. I will go out on a limb and make a couple of bold predictions:

  • Within next five years, there will be more programmers developing software for embedded systems than for the desktop

  • Linux will be the dominant OS in the embedded market
The speed with the ELC membership has been growing certainly validates the momentum of embedded Linux, as well as a perceived need for the consortium. We see this as a kind of mandate to move quickly to expand our programs, and to provide significant value to our membership.

There is a strong shared desire to find common ground, and to find ways to work together even as many of the members compete in the marketplace, and above all, to avoid repeating the painful history of the UNIX wars.

We would like to foster a sense of community around embedded Linux, and provide a forum for communications, through things like one or more Email discussion lists and working groups, for example.

Working together through the consortium, we would hope to influence the evolution of Linux to take into account the needs of the embedded industry in areas such as modularity, real-time, and a hardware abstraction layer.

Murry will talk about several major new initiatives that we are looking at, particularly in the areas of promotion and education.

We would like is to hear from the members, from all of you, how the ELC can serve your needs and meet your expectations. There will be an opportunity later today to provide inputs, but we also want to hear from you on an ongoing basis.

For the ELC to be effective and have a real impact, it is very important for our members, both at the corporate level, but also at the individual level, to be actively engaged with the consortium. We propose to set up working groups to address areas of interest, and I hope many of you will participate actively in some of these, and even help to establish and lead some of these groups.

Thank you all for joining us at this meeting. It is very heartening to see this great turnout.

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