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By Jack Ganssle

Linux Surveys

Published 9/2/2006

Embedded Linux is dying. According to a recent survey sent to Embedded Systems Design and EE Times readers (http://www.embedded.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=187203732 ) Linux use has declined from 37% of the market to just 20%, a stunning change. The same survey suggests that developers are even less likely to use the OS in future products.

Embedded Linux has never been healthier, and its use continues to increase. A survey that contradicts the former (http://www.linuxdevices.com/articles/AT7070519787.html ) shows 47% of developers are using Linux in embedded products this year, up from 32% three years ago.

Both surveys do show that Linux adoption has grown over time, since a 2001 study by the Evans Data Corporation pegged its use at 11.2%.

One is not suppose to discuss politics or religion in polite company, so I hesitate to enter into the Linux discussion. Yelling "Microsoft rocks" into a room full of open source advocates is about as bright as brandishing a copy of The Satanic Verses in a square in Iran. The same goes for making even the slightest disparaging comment about Linux to most any techie.

Yet it's just an OS, a pile of bits, nothing more, nothing less, one that is superbly suited for quite a range of applications but that is a ridiculous choice for others.

But why is there such a great variation in responses?

I have no idea.

There's some evidence. The linuxdevices.com results are surely skewed by a population already culled by their interest in the OS. I suspect few Windows zealots frequent the site.

The embedded.com data may be affected by the way responses were totaled. All summed to 100%, which hardly seems likely given that many of us use multiple OSes across many products. It appears respondents could select only one of a number of choices.

So I suspect the truth lies somewhere between the two sites.

The data is interesting and suggestive, though. At linuxdevices we see that the use of all operating systems in embedded applications is down except for Linux, eCos (another open source product) and, frighteningly, home-brew versions. That last data point violates common sense and must surely be some sort of statistical anomaly.

According to linuxdevices embedded Windows has grown steadily but was slightly off in 2006, down to 13%. Embedded.com suggests Windows adoption has nearly doubled in a single year!

A survey I recently conducted showed Linux eclipsed by only home-brew operating systems. It stood at 23.5% adoption, not far off the embedded.com figure. Windows scored 10.6%... not far off linuxdevices.com.

In my travels I see Linux in lots of applications, far more than a couple of years ago. My gut tells me the survey data is not telling the whole story. How about you? Are you using it in an embedded application? Has that been a great or lousy experience?