Speaking at a Japan ITU sponsored forum on operating systems on August 29, TRON Architecture designer Prof. Ken Sakamura said that the T-Engine kernel, which he hopes will become the base of a new ubiquitous computing architecture that will last 100 years, will be fixed in its final form within 2003. To make further changes, he pointed out, would require changes to be made to T-Engine middleware, and that would greatly hinder one of the main objectives of the T-Engine project, the rapid distribution and recompilation of middleware for the development of high-level applications on ubiquitous computing nodes based on T-Engine. In that regard, he said that in December of this year, the T-Engine Forum, which he is the chairman of, will commence operation of a middleware distribution center that will begin the electronic distribution of T-Engine middleware to T-Engine application developers. Accordingly, the T-Engine project, which officially began in the June 2002, will swing into high gear starting in the first quarter of 2004. Membership has increased from 22 companies to well over 200 companies.
The T-Engine kernel is based on the ITRON kernel, various versions of which have been implemented and commercialized since the mid 1980s. What makes T-Kernel different from ITRON, which is still being developed separately in the TOPPERS project, is that it has been developed as the standard kernel for particular hardware architecture, and that it is designed to work in conjunction with the eTRON security architecture. Unlike operating systems such as UNIX, Linux, and MS Windows, ITRON is a real-time operating system. The former three do their task scheduling using what is called a Time Sharing System in which each task in allotted a certain amount of time, but ITRON handles tasks using a priority based task scheduling system that allows it to respond to real world events in a timely manner. Another thing that ITRON has going for it is that it is the leading operating system in the world, since it is the most widely used operating system used in embedded devices. However, because there is almost no branding, very few people who use these devices know they are using ITRON.
The SCO Group, which has gained international attention by launching a massive lawsuit against major Linux developer IBM Corporation for first $1 billion and then $3 billion for breach of contract, announced in August that it would also be going after embedded Linux, which means MontaVista Software, Inc., the developer of T-Linux, and those companies that use its version of Linux. Although it originally seemed that SCO Group was solely targeting servers that used Linux, the company has since broadened its potential revenue targets to include Linux-based desktop personal computers and embedded devices. After sending out letters to 1,500 major Linux users, SCO Group set prices for Linux systems, which it claims are illegally using its intellectual property. These are: $1,399 for a single-CPU server, $199 for a desktop personal computer, and $32 for an embedded device. If SCO Group wins its legal battles and these prices stand, just about every bit of profit made from Linux systems will have to be handed over to SCO Group. In effect, that would mean the Linux movement being taxed out of existence.
MontaVista has put a series of questions and answers about SCO Group versus IBM lawsuit on its Web site. At present, SCO Group has filed suit against IBM and IBM has counter sued SCO Group in the state of Utah, and Red Hat, Inc., has preemptively launched a suit against SCO Group in the state of Delaware. Since the targets of SCO Group's actions keep expanding, there is no telling where it will end. However, there are two elements to the case: (1) a contractual dispute between SCO Group and IBM, and (2) intellectual property issues. Intellectual property (IP) issues in the U.S. fall under either copyright law, which protects the "way something is written," and software patents, which protects "software ideas." If the IP issues in this case involve only copyrights, the offending parts of Linux code can be rewritten, but if they involve software patents, certain functions may have to be taken out of Linux code until the patents expire. To complicate matters, many foreign countries do not recognize software patents, although it can be expected that the U.S. government will pressure them to do so in the future.
Personal Media Corporation announced in August that it had begun shipping a LAN expansion board for T-Engine/SH7751R. The new LAN expansion board, which carries a standard price of 65,000 yen (consumption tax not included), does not include software such as drivers and/or a TCP/IP stack. However, these are readily available from other companies participating in the T-Engine project. For example, there is "KASAGO for T-Engine," a TCP/IP protocol stack developed by Elmic Systems, Inc., which is compatible with both IPv4 and IPv6. It sells for 150,000 yen (consumption tax not included). The new T-Engine/SH7751R LAN expansion board can also be used in conjunction with Personal Media's "PMC T-Shell Development Kit," which provides native extensions for T-Kernel, such as a TCP/IP manager. PMC T-Shell carries a standard price of 98,000 yen (consumption tax not included). For further inquiries about these products and/or a full list of the T-Engine-related products sold by Personal Media, please contact their Sales Department.