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ZDNet: How x86 turned into Java; Linux may be ported to many platforms, but most apps are for X86

Feb 20, 2001, 22:16 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Stephan Somogyi)

"I wrote about server appliances last week, and observed in passing that Rebel.com and Cobalt, both purveyors of Linux-based boxes, had switched from embedded RISC processors to x86-compatible chips in their most recent generation products. This gave me pause, since the x86 instruction set, first introduced with Intel's 8086 and still alive and well in the Pentium IV, has long been decried by the cognoscenti as mostly dead."

"But according to Michael Whitehead, Rebel.com's vice president of research and development, the decision to move the newest generation NetWinder to a Transmeta Crusoe processor made sense for two particular reasons. While the Crusoe has impressive low-power characteristics, its x86 compatibility was the clincher. Linux application availability is highest for Linux-on-x86, and Rebel.com's customers conveyed this. In talking with Cobalt product marketing manager Pierre Reynes, the same story came out."

"Like anyone who's paying a modicum of attention, I know that Linux compiles readily on many different processor architectures and hardware configurations. But that doesn't make the slightest bit of difference if application vendors making non-open-source software for Linux decide that Linux-on-x86 is the only "real" Linux. This is a vexing problem, since one of the great hopes of Linux's portability was that it would level the playing field for the many non-x86 processors out there. Instead, the playing field has stayed roughly the same, but new playing fields in the embedded space have been created where Linux-NOT-on-x86 has flourished."

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