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MontaVista “Summit” concludes

Oct 3, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

MontaVista's embedded Linux conference and partner expo concluded today, after three days of training, talks, and socializing. Dubbed “Vision Summit,” and held this year in San Francisco's opulent Palace Hotel, the event aimed to create “one spark that helps ignite the embedded Linux community flame,” according to CEO Rusty Harris.

Uniting the embedded Linux community, and raising up the profile of “embedded” development within the open source and Linux communities were themes that reverberated and resounded throughout the event. In its second year, the annual conference drew 390 pre-registrations, MontaVista said — about the same number as last year's Vision summit, but with more paid attendance and more companies represented overall.

Delivering the opening keynote, Harris (pictured at right) celebrated a decade of Linux success in embedded systems, demonstrating fun MontaVista wins like Motorola Linux phones, the Tazer Axon, Sony Bravia TVs, and the DeLaval voluntary cow milking machine. Yet, the opportunity for Linux in devices dwarfs its success so far, Harris suggested.

Envisioning Linux “supplanting all other embedded OSes,” and becoming “as ubiquitous as embedded devices themselves,” Harris observed, “Embedded processors account for 90 percent of the total unit body output [from silicon vendors].”

Harris then pointed out four steps he reckons may lead embedded Linux toward such world domination.

First, Harris said, “We need a more rational embedded Linux market with a small number of commercial suppliers replacing the chaotic market we have today. The PC market has done this, organizing well around Red Hat, Ubuntu, and SUSE. We need to do the same.”

Harris elaborated, “Opportunity number one is to reduce our re-work. We have too many talented, skilled people working on the same problems. We need to agree on commonality and move forward.”

Next, Harris said, embedded developers need to embrace open source more fully. “Compared to PC programmers, embedded programmers are contributing much less code. More embedded companies need to find a way to put themselves on the list of contributors.”

Thirdly, Harris called for an “integrated supply chain” in the embedded market. Describing embedded Linux as “still young and maturing,” Harris said MontaVista would do its part by working more closely with silicon vendors to “rationalize the Linux we provide, and make your choices easier and safer.”

Finally, Harris called for more “community,” which he said would enable the first three ideas. “We need to get organized, and come together more often, both online and in person,” he said.

The bottom line?

Speaking candidly with LinuxDevices, Harris said MontaVista's revenues are up “about 10 percent” from last year. An accounting degree holder, the first-year CEO — now about nine months into the job — also disclosed that the company is enjoying the “longest positive cash position” in its history, and “finally has its expense base underneath the bookings run rate.”

To help manage expenses, Harris admitted that the company cut some sales positions, and shifted some efforts off-shore. “We adjusted the expense base of company as much as $2M per quarter,” Harris said.

Yet, Harris said, the cuts did not compromise the company's delivery capability, with a series of MontaVista 6 releases expected in the months ahead. Nor, despite a tough economy, has MontaVista seen “market pull-back,” instead getting “bookings up where they should be,” the CEO said.

Boasting of a recent company-wide licensing win with Samsung Electronics, and a closer relationship with Samsung Data Systems, Harris said MontaVista has closed more than a dozen “million-dollar” contracts this year, up from six in 2006. (Meanwhile, competitor Wind River touted eight such deals, in its most recent earnings report).

Harris observed, “A tough economy might actually help us. We can demonstrate a compelling cost-value proposition.”

MontaVista built its business on the idea that the operating system provides very little opportunity for product companies to add value. Therefore, outsourcing the OS saves development time and engineering expense, while adding a source of support. The company likes to boast of an ROI (return on investment) study done by one of its customers, Ripcode. The company reportedly found that using MontaVista Linux saved $4M and nine months. “That's significant,” Harris emphasized. “Product innovation gets killed by being late. What if you shipped the world's best horse carriage, just after Ford delivered the Model T?”

A clear technology leader in embedded Linux, MontaVista has struggled to achieve profitability throughout its history. Founder, CTO, and former CEO Jim Ready sometimes jokes that the relatively small company's top-10 contributor status may actually be a problem. Is the company finally rounding the bend, and in the clear?

Perhaps, Harris suggests. “We stemmed the tide. In 2005 and 2006, the company came over the top, and fell backward. To come back out and start to grow again has been a pretty big feat.”

Other Vision Summit talks

Other keynote speakers at this year's Vision Summit included:

  • Peter Kronowitt, Intel software strategist, spoke rather inspirationally about the MID opportunity, and the value of getting involved in Moblin
  • Freescale CTO Lisa Su very articulately discussed changes in the embedded supply chain, such as the growing role of manufacturing and pre-silicon simulation tools
  • OLPC kernel developer Deepak Saxena discussed power management challenges for Linux, with a specific focus on the AMD Geode-based XO laptop
  • MontaVista CTO Jim Ready offered his visionary view of the embedded market, both prior to and after Linux became an embedded OS
  • Founder Jonathan Corbett overviewed recent and pending Linux kernel enhancements, and spoke persuasively on the value of collaboration and contribution

Additionally, the event featured numerous training sessions, birds-of-a-feather sessions, and social events, including a lavish “Streets of San Francisco” event with ethnic and American gourmet cuisine. MontaVista has promised to post session presentations and videos of the keynote addresses at its website, here.

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