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Mobile Linux platform supports Cortex-A8 SoC

Oct 2, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 5 views

At its Vision 2008 conference yesterday, MontaVista Software announced that its Mobilinux distribution has been optimized for the Texas Instruments (TI) OMAP35x system-on-chip (SoC). MontaVista also announced that MontaVista Linux was used by 22 of the first 25 mobile devices compliant with the LiMo Platform.

(Click for larger view of TI's OMAP35x Evaluation Module)

MontaVista joins a number of Linux software and hardware development firms, including Timesys and RidgeRun, that have announced support for the Cortex-A8-based SoCs. TI announced the OMAP35x family in February, and were shipping all four of the OMAP35xx parts by the end of July. The OMAP35x family closely resembles TI's OMAP34x offerings for mobile phones, but with a larger ball-pitch and lower-volume pricing, and designed for use in a broad array of consumer and industrial embedded applications. MontaVista announced Mobilinux support for the OMAP34x back in April.

This Spring, TI shipped an Evaluation Module (EVM, pictured above) built by Mistral that is based on the low-end OMAP3503. The company also shipped (via DigiKey) a 3-inch, Linux-ready “Beagle Board” OMAP35x evaluation board that is aimed at low-volume embedded developers, hobbyists, and students. The Beagle Board is based on the high-end OMAP3530, which offers both HD digital video and OpenGL acceleration.

According to MontaVista, the combination of the OMAP35x and Mobilinux 5.0, the mobile version of its MontaVista Linux distribution, is a good match for streaming video, 2D/3D mobile graphics, video conferencing, and video capture. Likely devices for the duo include portable navigation devices, Internet appliances, and portable patient monitoring devices, says the company.

In June, MontaVista announced that Mobilinux had been optimized for the Freescale i.MX31, a popular mainstream consumer electronics SoC that TI is hoping the OMAP35x can supplant. Freescale, meanwhile, has announced a successor to the i.MX31 called the i.MX37, its first chip based on an ARM1176JZF-S core, and both companies face numerous competitors in the broad embedded multimedia device market, including the Via Nano and the Intel Atom.

MontaVista-based LiMo phones
from Motorola, NEC and Panasonic

(Click for details)

An early LiMo lead

The announcement was made at the first day of MontaVista's Vision 2008 Embedded Linux Developers Conference being held this week in San Francisco. MontaVista reminded attendees that earlier this year Mobilinux won the EDN Magazine Innovation Award under the software category. The company also cited a research report by the Mobile Consumer Lab of the International University of Japan, reporting that Mobilinux was the basis for over 90 percent of Linux-based smartphones shipped in 2007.

In making its claim for dominating the early round of LiMo phones in 2008, MontaVista did not mention that the three vendors shipping these LiMo-compliant, MontaVista Linux-based phones — Motorola, NEC, and Panasonic — have been using MontaVista for years. It will be interesting to see if MontaVista can maintain its smartphone dominance and sign up vendors of new LiMo and Google Android handsets. Meanwhile, arch rival Wind River is playing a major role in both the LiMo Foundation and the Open Handset Alliance overseeing Android.

The MontaVista-based
Panasonic FOMA P706ie

(Click for details)

Despite rising competition in Linux mobile distributions, MontaVista appears to be well positioned for the next big wave in Linux handsets. It now claims to have the only software to “demonstrate support of and integration with all major Linux mobile software stacks,” a list that it says includes LiMo, ALP (Access Linux Platform), Android, and Movial. The company also noted that Mobilinux is part of “the world's first Linux-based WiMAX mobile handset,” a collaborative design from EB Corporation and NextWave Wireless that was announced in February. The companies have yet to announce shipment of the device, but MontaVista says the WiMAX handset was completed in nine months, so perhaps a birth announcement may be imminent.

Stated Joerg Bertholdt, VP of marketing for MontaVista, “We are proud that out of the first 25 mobile devices that use the LiMo Platform, 22 were built with MontaVista Linux by our customers such as Motorola, NEC, and Panasonic.”

Stated William Mills, TI's chief technologist, open Linux solutions, “'Community first, commercial complement' is TI's new way of offering the best of both Linux worlds to customers. The community has fast and free access to drivers and fresh kernels for innovation, and is complemented by commercially available support, tools, testing, and maintenance for robust productization. With MontaVista's Mobilinux as the commercial complement to our community Linux, developers can make full use of the increased design options that are now available for new multimedia products based on TI's OMAP35x platform.”


MontaVista Mobilinux 5.0 for TI's OMAP3 platform is available now, says MontaVista.

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