http://www.chinapost.com.tw/business/detail.asp?GRP=E&id=59859 Linux-based systems gain further foothold 2005/3/19 By Carmen Russell The China Post MontaVista, the world's largest vendor of Linux-based software for interconnected devices, announced the opening of their Taiwan branch yesterday. James Ready, MontaVista's president and CEO, was on hand to discuss the Taiwan launch as well as the company's successes, goals and some issues affecting future expansion. "We are the most successful supplier of carrier-grade Linux," Ready boasted. To tell the story in numbers, Ready continued by comparing MontaVista to the well-known Red Hat, another Linux provider. "If you look at Red Hat which is a very complementary company to MontaVista," he said, "you see that they have around 350,000 installations mostly in basic supply and support servers. MontaVista Linux is in millions of devices, equaling, maybe, 50 times the number of Red Hat's installations." Ready noted that such ubiquitous usage is simply the "nature of consumer electronics." Personal electronic devices, which comprise a significant slice of the places one finds MontaVista Linux, are extremely widespread. Both Linux and MontaVista are not new concepts to the Taiwan market. In fact, Julian Hsu, the company's country manager, noted that it was because of the strong demand that MonteVista decided to open an official branch in the country. Hsu has already served as the company's local distributor for three-and-a-half years. MontaVista has another office branch in Seoul, Korea, and offices in Japan and Hong Kong. The company is looking to expand further into mainland China as well. Ready discussed a number of challenges facing the company and Linux adoption, most of which appear to come from false impressions of the operating system. Ready noted that anyone can simply download a free version of the Linux OS from the Internet. "So why would a company pay millions of dollars to MontaVista for a Linux system?" he rhetorically asked. "It's actually far cheaper to pay us than to further develop it on your own." The open source version freely available, Ready explained, is far too general in its operations to be of much use to the intricate needs of most hardware. In addition to debugging the kernel, MontaVista adds features tailored for specific functions. The process, he says, is what companies pay for and without it users would suffer monumental development costs or product instability. "It's a wonderful technology," he said, referring to the basic OS, "but its maturity is not yet there. To bypass tests, the risk of errors becomes very high. Debugging is also not a linear function; after initial testing, the cost of fixing it goes way up." According to Ready, most errors in the code at the open source level have yet to be discovered. By the time it goes through MontaVista's engineering processes and beta test, 75 percent of the errors are typically found. The rest are picked up during field testing. For users to do this themselves would mean an incredible investment in research and development. Clearly a number of mobile communication companies agree. NEC, Motorola and Panasonic mobile phones are just a few of the places one will find the company's software. MontaVista boasts over 2000 customers worldwide that have adopted Linux into their platforms. Hsu noted that it is the ability to build on a base that makes the Linux system so attractive. Hsu compared Linux to a "custom home development" and Microsoft and Symbian, another platform common in mobile communication devices, to "tract housing." "Using Linux, you can customize the platform to meet specific needs and differentiate it," he explained. "With a Microsoft or Symbian phone you look at it and you know it's a Microsoft phone or a Symbian phone. With a Linux-based phone, you can only tell its not Microsoft or Symbian." Another problem inhibiting further adoption of Linux, the company says, is its real-time limitations. Real-time refers to the expectation of an application to respond to a given event within a predictable period of time. Ready agrees that it is a challenge, but largely downplays the issues that face Linux expansion. "One can see it looking backwards," he explained. "There have often been predictions about issues affecting implementation, but history says the issues are surmountable. From the general trends with our customers we see them expanding their usage not limiting their adoption." When asked about security issues, Ready admitted that there is nothing magic about Linux and that it can't be called "virus proof." The fact that Microsoft has been the number one target for viruses reflects the company's strategy. "Microsoft did not prioritize security," Ready said. "On the other hand, we have a window of opportunity to learn from the past. It's a steep fast curve but we are hard at work trying to stay ahead of the game." Recently, Symbian-based phones were hit with the first known mobile phone viruses. Despite such rising threats, Ready said he felt that the open source code was actually an advantage in achieving security and not a drawback. "There are benefits from the fact that it's widely understood. The attackers know the code, but so do the people who try to foil the attack. They can combine and use their knowledge to deflect those problems." _____ _/ ____\____ Frederick Noronha * Freelance Journalist * Goa \ __\/ \ India T +91.832.2409490 M +919822 122436 | | | | \ http://fn.swiki.net http://goabooks.swiki.net |__| |___| / http://www.bytesforall.net http://www.bytesforall.org \/ ----------------------------------------------------- Writing with a difference, on issues that really make the difference.