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Chip giants team up to take Linux mainstream

IBM, Samsung, TI, Arm, Freescale and ST-Ericsson are founding members of Linaro

A group of chip makers including IBM, Samsung Electronics and Texas Instruments have unveiled a new software-engineering foundation dedicated to improving Linux distributions, including Android, MeeGo and Ubuntu, used in consumer devices.

The new foundation hopes to take the success Linux has seen in large enterprise software and translate that to the consumer world of TV, tablets, smartphones and netbooks, which is dominated by several main OSes, including Windows, Symbian, Blackberry and Apple's iPhone OS.

A total of six companies have pledged to fund the non-profit Linaro venture with "tens of millions of dollars" per year, said Tom Lantzsch, interim CEO of Linaro and an executive vice president at Arm Holdings, said at a news conference in Taipei. Arm, Freescale Semiconductor and ST-Ericsson are the other three initial members of the group, which is open for anyone to join.

The member companies will unite their open source engineering resources in Linaro and will contribute to a wide range of open source projects. Linaro will partner with the Linux Foundation to align on core operating principles, according to a statement.

Currently there are around 20 engineers already working at Linaro, but the foundation will soon have over 100, Lantzsch said.

Linaro plans to create developer tools for Linux makers so they can take better advantage of the complex chips made by the founding members of the group, mainly chips with Arm processing cores. The chips are complex because smartphones and other small gadgets require a lot of technology to be work and remain connected to networks and the Web all the time. Chip makers often say software developers could make much better use of the power inside the chips.

Despite its lean towards Arm, the group said it would welcome Intel and that it plans to offer tools for all kinds of processors. The MeeGo OS, which the group highlighted in its news release, was created by Intel and Nokia for small devices and also supports processors including Intel's Atom as well as Arm.

Linaro aims to put out new releases of software tools, kernel and middleware every six months. The software will already be validated for a wide range of chips, which will help companies get their gadgets to market a lot faster.

One example of a project already in place is for fast boot kernel technology, so Linux distributions start up faster on devices.

Linaro is currently seeking a new CEO. Lantzsch was responsible for forming the foundation, but he plans to return full-time to Arm once a replacement is found.


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