Embedded Linux now has a common voice

Bound by a common interest in Linux, a vendor-neutral group of nearly 50 industry representatives has come together to form the Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC).

The group, created at March’s Embedded Systems Conference in Chicago, is made up of companies involved in the embedded Linux area. It has two main goals, according to Jim Estill, the CEO of Guelph, Ont.-based EMJ Data Systems, one of the companies involved with the ELC’s creation.

“One is to promote the use of embedded Linux, and the second is promote the standards, because you don’t want to have Linux go off being an open standard,” he explained. “So it’s basically promoting Linux for use in embedded systems and using Linux responsibly.”

James Governor, an analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc., said the consortium is a good thing, especially for businesses.

“It makes a lot of sense in that it really adds a business aspect to what a lot of these companies are trying to achieve,” Governor said. “It also means that some of the smaller embedded specialists can play a role, rather than leaving it up to the big boys and hoping that the likes of Red Hat do useful things. They can begin to hopefully drive standards around embedded Linux.”

The group is still getting organized, according to Murray Shohat, the acting executive director for the ELC. He said the first priority of the group is to become an incorporated entity with a tax-free status, a process which is already underway.

Rick Lehrbaum, the interim chairman of the ELC, indicated that is the first step.

“Everything else really follows that. Then we’ll have an election of the board of directors, and we’ll set the goals and objectives of the organization thereafter,” he explained.

There will also be the opportunity for certain companies to become charter members of the ELC, Lehrbaum said. A date will be set for that, “and then we’ll set some objectives for the vision and mission and initial goals.”

Shohat said the ELC is hoping to make its views known, and make its members’ products available to serve the many niches in the embedded market.

More specific goals have yet to be decided – the group’s members must first plan exactly how they want to work together, Lehrbaum said.

The consortium will educate people, said EMJ’s Estill.

“We will do the press thing and get the word out that way,” he explained. It will also “contact the manufacturers and put out white papers on the use of Linux as an embedded operating system.”

Will the ELC work? That is something that only time will tell, according to Illuminata’s Governor.

He pointed out that the ASP industry consortium did not achieve a great deal, and if this group uses the same model, it won’t be “hugely helpful.” But it is still early on, he said, so there is a possibility that things will work out.

“There are clear examples of consortiums which haven’t achieved anything, but there are other ones that have. Hopefully this will be one that does.”

What the market doesn’t have is a “runaway embedded Linux Goliath that is going to set any kind of de facto standard,” Governor said. “These people will have to work together, so they might as well have an organization to do so.”

A Web site for the ELC is underway.