Software, hardware gets inside new devices

Companies making hardware and software for embedded systems that power a broad spectrum of devices, from handheld computers to industrial automation equipment, last week joined forces to bring new products to market at the Embedded Systems Conference here.

Lineo Inc., which makes a Linux-based embedded operating system for a variety of devices, announced a new hardware partner that will use Lineo's Embedix Plus PDA (personal digital assistant) software to run a new handheld device.

InfoMart, based in Bangalore, India, has developed a device called the Kaii with the Embedix Plus PDA operating system, according to Lineo. Using a processor from Hitachi, the Kaii will run at 160 MHz and will be equipped with 64M bytes of RAM and 32M bytes of ROM.

Lineo, in Lindon, Utah, already has tuned its operating system to run on the Zaurus handheld from Sharp Corp.

Lineo has also extended its embedded Linux operating system to run on an IBM Corp. PowerPC chip used in television set-top boxes, the company said. The Lineo Embedix SDK (software development kit) and a BSD (board support package) together will allow hardware makers to build such features as personal video recording and Web access into set-top boxes powered by the PowerPC chip.

Lineo will make the SDK available for US$3,000, while the BSP is priced at $1,495. Both products are due for release in the second half of the year, the company said.

Cirrus Logic Inc. also announced new hardware and support from manufacturers. The Austin, Texas, chip maker released an embedded processor called the EP7312-90 this week that is based on designs from ARM Ltd. The chip is intended for use in home and portable music players. It is capable of allowing a device to record digital music files without the need for a PC, Cirrus Logic said.

Most portable MP3 players require a user to download music files from a PC, whereas Cirrus Logic said its new chip allows music to be recorded on a device directly from storage media such as a CD or Compact Flash card. Cirrus Logic's chip costs $12.25 when purchased in quantities of 50,000 units, the company said.

At least one company has announced that it will use the chip in a new device. Fullplay Media Systems Inc., a manufacturer of digital music devices, announced this week that it will use the EP7312-90 in its Darwin Digital Jukebox, a home entertainment center device for storing, recording and playing digital music files.

Several operating system and tool vendors put their software on a wider range of hardware at the show, including server appliances and television set-top boxes.

Wind River Systems Inc. released a set of development tools called VSPWorks that lets developers build systems to run a version of its VXWorks real-time operating system tuned for DSPs (digital signal processors). DSPs are used to power devices used by the aerospace and defense industries, as well as network equipment and consumer electronics devices, such as cell phones. The tool kit from Alameda, California-based Wind River is used to design and debug such systems.

VSPWorks can be used to design systems that use chips including the SHARC, Hammerhead and ADSP-21020 from Analog Devices Inc.; two families of chips from Texas Instruments Inc.; and the PowerPC chip from Motorola Inc. The tools are currently available for download from Wind River's Web site at no cost.

Pittsburgh-based TimeSys Corp., a maker of embedded Linux operating systems and development tools, announced that versions of its products have been optimized for Sun Microsystems Inc.'s UltraSPARC IIe line of processors. Those chips, used in the embedded systems market to run such things as server appliances, already supports an embedded Linux platform from Lineo.

TimeSys will begin making its embedded Linux operating system and development tools available on Monday as a free download from its Web site, a company representative said. The basic package of tools and support is free. However, that version can't be used to build a hard real-time system, for devices used in mission-critical applications such as in medical environments. Extra add-on tools can be purchased from TimeSys to get real-time capabilities, the company said.

Metrowerks, an Austin-based software development tools maker, released a version of its CodeWarrior development environment tuned for building embedded systems for networked devices such as "smart" vending machines, Internet appliances and industrial kitchen equipment. The CodeWarrior Development System, Embedded Network Edition, can be used to build software based on operating systems from Lineo, and processors from Motorola Inc., which is the parent company of Metrowerks.

An evaluation edition of the tools is currently available for about $700. A full license for the tools costs $42,500, the company said.

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