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Ten years after, MontaVista’s Jim Ready looks forward

Jul 24, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

A decade after launching MontaVista — and many would say the embedded Linux industry — CTO Jim Ready spoke with LinuxDevices about how the industry has changed. Ready touches on everything from early Linux cellphones to the rise of semiconductor distributions to how MontaVista's MontaBello technology foreshadows Google's Chrome OS.

MontaVista Software announced its 10-year anniversary last week,  celebrating Jim Ready launch of MontaVista and the first commercial embedded Linux distribution. Yet, back in the early '90s, many years before pioneering Hard Hat Linux (later MontaVista Linux), Ready and his Ready Systems consultant firm was a key developer of VRTX, considered to be the first commercially viable, real-time operating system (RTOS. In 1999, Ready took the lessons he'd learned in the RTOS business and applied them to the more flexible and connected Linux OS with Hard Hat Linux.

Linux, phone home

In 2003, Ready worked with Motorola and NTT DoCoMo to develop the first commercial Linux cellphones. Since then, MontaVista has since been integrated in all of Motorola's Linux phones, such as the popular RAZR2 V8 (pictured).

Over the last decade, Ready has helped move MontaVista Linux into a wide variety of embedded devices, from Carrier Grade Linux 4.0-registered networking equipment, to industrial equipment, to mobile consumer devices. According to the company, which is led by CEO Rusty Harris, some 60 million devices use MontaVista Linux today.

MontaVista stood alone for many years as the dominant embedded Linux leader until Wind River expanded into embedded Linux from its base with the VxWorks real-time OS. A lively rivalry has held sway for many years, with the top two vendors followed at a distance by more vertical and industrial-focused firms like Concurrent Computer Corp., Lauterbach, Lineo Solutions, and SysGo.

Linux developers can also turn to a growing number of alternatives such as DIY-oriented subscription vendors like Timesys' LinuxLink, consulting firm packages like Embedded Alley's Development System for Linux-based Devices, and increasingly, semiconductor companies supporting their own processors with Linux support packages. In the mobile device field, meanwhile, embedded Linux developers working at the higher levels of the stack spend a lot of time with open source mobile tools from projects like Android and Moblin.

Competing with an Intel-fueled Wind River

Now that Wind River has been acquired by Intel, MontaVista is suddenly up against a far more powerful rival. The company may have an opportunity, however, if Intel's Wind River subsidiary starts to show signs of favoring Intel processors over other architectures. (See our recent interview with MontaVista VP of Marketing Joerg Bertholdt for MontaVista's take on Intel's Wind River acquisition, here.)

Even without Intel's resources, however, Wind River has been moving up fast. For example, a recent VDC Research study showed Wind River had moved past MontaVista to the number one position in embedded Linux distributions and tools, representing over 30 percent of the market in 2008.

This summer MontaVista is firing back with a major MontaVista Linux 6 upgrade that offers a substantial reorganization of the product along semiconductor architecture lines in so-called "Market Specific Distributions" (MSDs). The release also offers a new integration platform based on a bitbake build engine, as well as a centralized content server for developers.

One of MontaVista's greatest recent achievements, according to Ready, is in the hot field of fast-boot technology. Dell uses MontaVista's fast-boot code, which is related to MontaVista's MID-oriented MontaBello stack, for its Latitude ON fast-boot feature used in Dell Latitude notebooks.

We recently spoke with Jim Ready (pictured above right) and asked him about how the embedded Linux industry has changed in the last decade, and where it's heading. The interview may be found by clicking the link below:

Ten years after: An Interview with MontaVista's Jim Ready


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