[gnulinuxinasia] MontaVista, interconnected devices giant, moves to Taiwan

  • From: "Frederick Noronha (FN)" <fred@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: gnulinuxinasia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 20 Mar 2005 16:08:40 +0530 (IST)


Linux-based systems gain further foothold

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

"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
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   Writing with a difference, on issues that really make the difference.

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