Of Arrogance and Embedded Systems

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2001-04-23 Email Print this article Print

One of the most overlooked segments in computing is embedded systems, which by nature could be bigger—in terms of units shipped—than the server and desktop PC markets combined.

One of the most overlooked segments in computing is embedded systems, which by nature could be bigger—in terms of units shipped—than the server and desktop PC markets combined. Unfortunately, the embedded market is so full of flagrantly arrogant poseurs that confusion will abound for years. The bonus is that Im going to have many field days trying to pick apart these players.

First off, Microsoft (which long ago realized the power of the embedded market) recently announced the Windows XP Embedded Rapid Development Program. Its clear that this is an excellent move for Microsoft because a company that controls routers, storage devices and the network controls IT.

Linux proponents, meanwhile, agree that Linux has been a major player in the embedded systems market for some time. Linux, in fact, is the operating system of choice for many network-attached storage devices, although these NAS vendors are usually small-time chumps that can sell barely above costs.

One Linux company, Lineo, is making a substantial investment in storage devices as well as firewalls and will make sure its wares run on a variety of platforms.

Meanwhile, the granddaddy of the embedded market—WindRiver—recently purchased BSDi, known for its flavor of the BSD OS called—uniquely enough—BSD/OS.

But wait—anyone with a clear mind would question this purchase. While the advocates of FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD continue to bicker over—er, discuss—the merits of each particular version of the BSD operating system, WindRiver purchased the proprietary rendition of the famous BSD Unix. But WindRiver, which has a reputation for being arrogant and difficult to work with, has marketed this purchase as a way to jump into the open-source fray. Its a lie.

Its also arrogance. So is the decision of the Linux god himself, Linus Torvalds, to ridicule the Mac OS X operating system. Hes apparently ingested way too much of the Linux freedom fighters fodder while forgetting that people just want their things to work.

Even more arrogant is open-source movement henchman Bruce Perens decision to ask the biggest vendors—IBM and Hewlett-Packard—to return some of the intellectual property that the vendors created by using open-source technologies, including Linux. This wont give anyone the warm fuzzies, and it may hurt Linux in the long run.

We all know about Microsoft. But it must be difficult for the Linux regime to realize that it is no different. Its clear that there may be no winners, and there might be large enough segments of the pie for all to consume. But with all this bickering and dickering, a little less attitude among all participants and an inclination to adopt a more open license agreement, such as BSDs—and I dont mean the BSD/OS—sounds very appealing right now.

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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