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Japanese CE giants to create own Linux

But since they already have multiple OS deals, what's the big deal?

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Japan's consumer electronics and computing giants - and Toshiba - are to co-operate on the development of Linux-based embedded operating system for CE devices.

According to Reuters, a spokesman for the group - which includes Sony, NEC, Fujitsu, Hitachi, 19 other Japanese electronics and software companies, and two universities - said the plan was to develop an industry standard OS capable of working in practically any CE product, from cellphones to in-car navigation kit. The motivation: to share and therefore minimise development costs.

The consortium will develop a core OS which members may then adapt for the specific needs of their own products. However, just how widely used the new OS will be is open to question. It's interesting to note that consortium members seem keen to stress it will be one OS option among many.

"It's not possible to make one standard OS for all digital appliances and information devices," an official at a major consumer Japanese electronics maker, according to the Reuters report. "Manufacturers will use several OSes for different products - some self-developed, some Linux-based and some Windows CE-based."

No great surprise there, since many of the consortium's participants already have OS licensing deals in place, such as Sony's use of the PalmOS in its upcoming PDA and other more multimedia-oriented products. And companies that already have OS development projects in place are unlikely to want to junk them in favour of a programme starting from scratch.

Yet the consortium does want its operating system to be the OS of choice: "We are trying to get together to create a process so that a de facto standard will emerge," said John Cheuck, the group's vice chairman.

The reconcilliation between these two perspectives is that the new OS will simply become the standard version of Linux used by members, as opposed to the standard OS, period. Even Cheuck admitted that more than one standard will exist in the market.

In short, Bill Gates isn't going to lose much sleep over this. And while it's broadly good news for the Linux world, as an embedded OS the consortium's code is unlikely to have much of a public profile when it's finally used in devices, unless the consortium promotes it as a platform, like Microsoft does with CE. That's possible, but given the apparent reticence of the participants to back the project fully - ie. by declaring it their prime OS - unlikely. ®

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