Linux Makes New Home on TVs, Smartphones, Tablets

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Linux rules supercomputers. It's vitally important to servers. And, Linux is making gains on the desktop. Where Linux is really going to shine in the next twelve months though is in devices: tablets, smartphones, and TVs.

For example, more than a dozen Apple iPad-like tablets made their first appearance at the Computex computer show in Taipei, Taiwan. The vast majority of these devices run Android Linux or other embedded Linuxes such as the latest MeeGo embedded Linux.

I have every expectation that Apple's iPad is going to stay on top. It's a great design, and, except for its failure to support Flash thanks to Apple's fight with Adobe, it works well. But, iPads are expensive and they don't support Flash. That gives the coming flood of low-priced Linux-powered tablets more than enough room to win in the market.

Moving on, look at smartphones. ABI Research senior analyst Victoria Fodale predicts that Linux-enabled smartphones, with Google's Android leading the way, will make up 33% of the worldwide smartphone market by 2015. In terms of growth, the Linux smartphone is going to beat everyone else.

It makes sense to me. IPhones are great, but again, they're not cheap. And, as Fodale is reported to have said, "Due to its low cost and ability to be easily modified, Linux in the mobile market today is nearly as disruptive as Linux was in server markets a decade ago." Symbian, open-sourced or not, seems to be on a permanent decline.

As for television and other entertainment devices, most of the major chip makers, with the noticeable exception of Intel, but including IBM, Samsung Electronics and Texas Instruments have just announced Linaro. This is a new software-engineering, non-profit foundation aimed at helping Linux distribution developers from the Android, MeeGo and Ubuntu worlds work on consumer devices such as TVs, tablets, smartphones and netbooks. which use the ARM processor.

The big news here is that by trying to unify ARM Linux development efforts, Linaro promises to make it easier for everyone who wants to manufacture devices that can make use of the processor powerful, but low-powered ARM chipset. I've long predicted that ARM would eventually do extremely well in low-cost, long battery life devices. The problem has been co-coordinating all the different software and hardware efforts to achieve that end. With luck, Linaro will overcome this problem.

Taken all-in-all, it seems clear to me that we're going to see major growth in the use of Linux in consumer devices. It's just makes sense, and, as I've pointed out elsewhere, it's devices and not PCs, that are really where the computing world is heading now. And, in this brave new world, Linux will be leading the way.

This story, "Linux Makes New Home on TVs, Smartphones, Tablets" was originally published by Computerworld.

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