The inadvertent Linux user

While Linux is still taking off relatively slowly in the desktop world, the same is not true in the mobile space where many are predicting that we will be presented with a mobile Linux Odyssey in 2012.

Embedded Linux is on the rise, and may be found anywhere from the vehicle management system in your car to the smartphone in your shirt pocket. Montavista Linux, for instance, powers not only smartphones from Motorola, NEC and Panasonic, but Sony TV and media devices, Linksys wireless routers and Yamaha musical instrument systems.

Linux is deployed in more than 25 per cent of smartphones, and is second only in popularity to the Symbian operating system (OS) in that market. Experts are predicting a bright future for the OS, with ABI Research suggesting that it will appear on more than 200 million phones by 2012.

A different ball game

Both the market and the hardware are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with higher capacities of memory and processor power. Yet memory, battery life and processing power remain precious commodities. Linux may need more memory than a legacy RTOS system, but it is more scalable and parsimonious of RAM and flash than many of the systems with which it is in close competition. A Microsoft Windows Mobile system, for instance, requires 28-32 MB to be fully operational, whereas Linux can be deployed in less than a megabyte when necessary, and requires less than 11-12 MB to be highly functional, thus freeing memory for other uses and reducing the overall cost.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

As in other sectors of the computer hardware industry, the manufacturers see direct benefits in supporting Linux and free software. If a company is giving away software that has brought it advantage, it is also gaining from the donations of its rivals.

Paradoxically, this willingness to collaborate encourages innovation in other aspects of the business. A new device can be brought to market much more quickly, and precious engineering resources are liberated to develop features further up the stack. Deploying Linux reduces the initial development costs, and perhaps more significantly, the absence of a licence fee significantly reduces the cost of each item sold, which is vitally important in a market where margins are slim.

Mutually-beneficial community ethos

Very few devices rely exclusively on open source components, but there is a wide ecosystem, consisting of developer communities and open source companies who provide stripped down kernels and support.

Intel and ARM both contribute extensively to the development of the embedded kernel. Sun provides a Linux based Java software development kit (SDK), and Trolltech provides the QTopia framework that is deployed on more than 30 smart phones.

ACCESS/PalmSource has moved the popular Palm OS platform onto the Linux kernel. "PalmSource is committed to Linux because we believe it provides the best foundation on which to build our middleware, user experience and applications," said PalmSource lead scientist, John Ostrem. "The benefits for PalmSource from Linux include enabling us to concentrate our resources on the differentiating parts of our technology, faster time to market, and support for a broader range of hardware." In short, Linux supports a wider range of processors in the embedded market than any other OS.

Similarly Michel Goossens, the vice president of sales and marketing for Red Hat JBoss in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), says that JBoss, the open source Java application server, has had rapid uptake among the telcos, because they need to develop new applications every day. "We play well with the Ericssons, the Nokias and Siemens of the world," he said, suggesting that they need to differentiate their products on an ongoing basis by creating in-house applications for a specialised market. "They have to move quickly [and the flexibility of JBoss, and the fact that the software is available with no-cost licences] is irresistible to such enterprises," he added.

Feature rich, user friendly

Many of the applications are fostered by the Nokia sponsored maemo.org open source developer community, which boasts the participation of thousands of developers and whose declared aim is "to make maemo open, accessible and useful to all developers wanting to squeeze the possibilities of the mobile desktop and the internet," and claims the participation of thousands of developers. Maemo provides a vast range of additional office, communication and entertainment applications, and the Nokia n800 can function as a full-blown pocket sized PC, complete with features such as VNC which gives the ability to view any desktop environment on the network. The Nokia n800 is more obviously Linux based than other devices of its type, and may signal the way forward. The Evolution email client slots seamlessly into a Microsoft network, and web services are fully supported.

In essence, the fact that a PDA or smartphone is running Linux should be of little consequence for the enterprise user. The applications, connectivity and interoperability of such clients are limited only by the manufacturers' specifications.

Featured Resources

Application security fallacies and realities

Web application attacks are the most common vulnerability, so what is the truth about application security?

Download now

Your first step researching Managed File Transfer

Advice and expertise on researching the right MFT solution for your business

Download now

The KPIs you should be measuring

How MSPs can measure performance and evaluate their relationships with clients

Download now

Life in the digital workspace

A guide to technology and the changing concept of workspace

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/open-source/34540/view-from-the-airport-linux-open-networking-summit-2019
open source

View from the airport: Linux Open Networking Summit 2019

1 Oct 2019
Visit/software/28109/what-is-open-source
Software

What is open source?

13 Sep 2019
Visit/operating-systems/28025/best-linux-distros-2019-the-finest-open-source-operating-systems-around
operating systems

Best Linux distros 2019

18 Jun 2019

Most Popular

Visit/strategy/28115/the-pros-and-cons-of-net-neutrality
Business strategy

The pros and cons of net neutrality

4 Nov 2019
Visit/security/ransomware/354171/microsoft-issues-statement-debunking-teams-ransomware-rumours
ransomware

Microsoft issues statement debunking Teams ransomware rumours

21 Nov 2019
Visit/public-cloud/34850/salesforce-takes-aws-relationship-to-the-next-level
News

Salesforce takes AWS relationship to the next level

19 Nov 2019
Visit/mobile/5g/354161/tests-show-uks-5g-network-is-450-faster-than-4g
5G

Tests show UK's 5G network is 450% faster than 4G

20 Nov 2019