A blog for the enterprise open source community
Embedded open source spreading, openingJay Lyman, August 5, 2009 @ 3:20 pm ET
The action continues around Linux and open source in the embedded software space, where this week we are hearing that MIPS Technologies, a provider of processor technology for a range of networking, mobile, consumer and other devices, is open sourcing its port of the Linux-based Android OS software. MIPS announced its port of Android, a product of Google and the Open Handset Alliance, two months ago, and now says it is making source code available under the open source Apache 2.0 license. It is also initiating an Early Access Program of hardware and code optimizations for a few key customers, which will be announced later. This last part may seem somewhat antithetical to open source, but it may also serve to provide the early direction and structure to foster a useful open source software community, provided the source code is actually publicly available under an OSI-approved open source license.
Why is MIPS Technologies doing this? We can look largely to its giant processor competition, Intel, which also expanded its footprint in the embedded software and device market with its $884m acquisition of Wind River in June 2009. The MIPS move is also another instance of a hardware player becoming more empowered and in control of its own destiny, devices and applications by using open source software as the vehicle (which is another big part of this market). As Linux and other open source software and development free these vendors from the OS licensing, roadmap and development constraints of proprietary software, we should expect to see more of this kind of consolidation and code.
Indeed it is part of closer partnerships, consolidation, mergers and acquisitions we see happening in this space, largely as a result of Intel-Wind River and momentum for Android and other Linux and open source software. The recent acquisition of Linux specialist Embedded Alley by Mentor Graphics only serves to reinforce the idea that although Linux continues to be somewhat fragmented, it is also currently serving as a federating force in embedded software.
We do expect continued uptake and traction for Linux and open source software in mobile and embedded devices — which range from mobile devices to industrial uses to the wired home, to which MIPS makes reference. We also applaud the move from MIPS Technologies. However, we would add the caveat that mixed licensing, commercial licensing and the need for both revenue and control of software and devices in embedded markets often results in code that is closed or practically closed to users, as detailed in our CAOS report, Mobility Matters.
Also, while embedded Linux, Android, Maemo, Moblin and other open source software efforts are attracting the attention, partnership and investment of larger vendors that have long played and succeeded in embedded device markets, it also continues to hold implications, and perhaps opportunities, for Linux and open source savvy players, particularly IBM, Novell and Red Hat.
We will be staying tuned to this space and what’s happening with Linux and open source software, which continues to play a bigger role in the latest and greatest devices.
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