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Linaro is ARM’s most direct attack yet on the Wintel paradigm

by Scott Bicheno on 4 June 2010, 17:50

Tags: ARM, Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN)

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A call to arms

When we reported on the foundation of Linaro - a collaboration between five chip companies to promote the development of the Linux kernel for embedded applications - we observed that ARM's business model makes it more dependent than most companies on the success of its partners, otherwise known as the ARM ecosystem.

For the same reason, you are unlikely to ever entice an ARM exec into showing any bias in favour of one member over another. So it intrigued us to see ARM at the forefront of an organisation that so overtly backed one operating system.

And when we say at the forefront, we really mean it. Take a look at the management team here - they're all from ARM bar the Brazilian head of engineering, who works for UK Linux developer of Ubuntu - Canonical. Perhaps conscious of this emphasis, the Linaro fails to mention the fact that Executive Officer Tom Lantzsch has been ARM's EVP of corporate development for the past three and a half years.

We spoke to the other Linaro executive officer - Ben Cade (formerly VP of corporate strategy at ARM) and asked him what the thinking behind the formation of Linaro was. "We started by looking at a typical early adopter home in the US and asked how many of these sorts of devices [with embedded SoCs] you would find," he said. "The answer was 10-15; games consoles, e-readers, phones, set-top-boxes, etc.

"The most growth is coming from SoCs and increasingly they're powered by Linux. The challenge is: if you want to serve them all well, you need to see if there's a more efficient way of serving the ecosystem."

That stands to reason; ARM has limited resources compared to its main competitor - Intel. It can't just chuck money at partners it favours, so it needs to find the most efficient way to help as many of them as possible. On the software side this means helping to optimize all forms of Linux to run on ARM-based SoCs.

While the development tools released by Linaro will be made available for all varieties of Linux - including Intel-backed MeeGo - to use, it's hard to view this as anything other than a direct, and significant, contribution by ARM to the proliferation of Android and webOS, primarily.