Linux Adoption in the Embedded Market Presents Challenges

Recently published research by Venture Development Corporation (VDC) indicates increasing adoption of Linux in embedded system development projects.

However, suppliers of branded commercial embedded Linux solutions will continue to be challenged in differentiating their Linux solutions from what is publicly available and demonstrating real value in order to maintain a premium for their products and support.

According to Stephen Balacco, Director of VDC’s Embedded Software Practice, “While some OEMs have chosen to use a commercial Linux solution, more are using and/or expect to use a publicly available Linux solution in future project development. It is this trend that will continue to put pressure on commercial Linux suppliers to provide value above and beyond the growing sophistication of publicly available Linux solutions.”

Linux developers can make use of a wide range of publicly existing device drivers, design systems using the latest communication protocols, supplement existing platforms with technology leveraged from the enterprise Linux domain, and enjoy royalty-free production licensing.

As internal development teams gain more Linux experience, the threat from OEMs migrating to a “roll-your-own” (RYO) open-source solution is expected to increase faster than adoption of commercial Linux solutions, especially among larger OEMs who can afford to fund the up-front engineering and maintenance and support of an internal Linux solution. Similarly, smaller OEMs with limited budgets look to open-source Linux as a more sophisticated RYO solution with support from the open source community.

From VDC’s perspective, commercial Linux suppliers will need to continue to focus on product development and integration challenges by moving up the value chain from just supplying a Linux OS distribution to offering increased efficiency to the development process by providing high-quality development tools, middleware, Linux platforms and application level solutions, and other resources that support Linux-based engineering. According to Balacco, “In this way, OEMs can focus on their core competencies, the competition, and profitability in bringing new products to market faster, within development budgets.”