Embedded Linux on the Grow

While Linux is widely used in servers and is growing slowly on the desktop side, the embedded market for Linux is one that continues to have momentum. One such proof point for came this week from the year end financial results for embedded operating system vendor Wind River (NASDAQ:WIND).

For its fiscal 2009 year, which ended on January 31, 2009, Wind River reported $359.8 million in revenue, a 9 percent increase in year over year increase. The companies net income hit $10.8 million, which is a turnaround from the net loss of $2.4 million for the prior year.

Wind River has both a proprietary embedded operating system called VxWorks as well as an embedded Linux offering

“In Q4 we had another strong Linux quarter as bookings grew 48 percent over last year,” said Kenneth Klein, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Wind River, in a conference call with financial analysts. “We were successful in achieving our objective of achieving Linux sales in excess of $65 million in Fiscal 09.”

Wind River entered the Linux business in 2004 as a way to offer more choices to embedded developers. Wind River’s Linux is used in a number of different industries ranging from consumer electronics to the automotive industry.

“We saw strong demand this quarter for our Linux solutions in the in-vehicle infotainment market as automotive customers continue to embrace open source to address rapid cycle times and design flexibility to integrate both current and future applications and services,” Klein said.

As part of Wind River’s automotive push the company also announced this week its participation in the GENIVI Alliance and Automotive Consortium to develop an open source in-vehicle infotainment platform. Members of the consortium include BMW, General Motors, Intel, Magneti Marelli and PSA Peugeot. The new consortium is an expansion of a Linux in-vehicle infotainment effort that Wind River helped to start with BMW in May of 2008.

Klein also noted that Wind River was selected as a key vendor to deliver common infrastructure tools, testing and integration services for the mobile Linux LiMo platform.

“In this strategic role we are well positioned to help LiMo members, mobile operators and handset manufacturers customize, integrate and validate open source handset software, ” Klein said.

Competitor MontaVista

On the Linux side, Wind River competes against privately held embedded Linux vendor MontaVista. MontaVista Linux spokesperson Dean Misenhimer told InternetNews.com that he was unable to provide specific revenue number for MontaVista in 2008, though he noted it was a positive year for the company.

MontaVista is also optimistic about its prospects for 2009 as the economy might end up helping adoption of embedded Linux

“We’re cautiously optimistic as companies look at Linux we think they may turn to commercial Linux even faster than they would in the past as they need to maintain their competitive edge.”

Though MontaVista does see Wind River in the marketplace, Misenhimer argued that they also see a lot of custom built roll your own Linux solutions in place. He noted that the value a commercial Linux version offers is support that will enable a developer to deliver a better product faster.

MontaVista had its own announcement this week. The company said it’s joining the Intel led Moblin mobile Linux effort which represents a change of heart for MontaVista. When Moblin launched in 2007, MontaVista founder Jim Ready told InternetNews.com that his company wasn’t supporting Moblin initially, but would when demand rose.

Misenhimer noted that the decision to now support Moblin is all about choice.

“Our position in general is whether it’s Moblin, (Google) Android or any of the other stacks, I think we want to be able to support them all and let the market decide which one will have the most traction.”

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