Location: Santa Clara, CA
Product or service: MontaVista provides a family of Linux-based products for embedded, consumer electronic, and mobile devices, while also offering a Linux-based platform for carrier infrastructure equipment.
Why its innovative: MontaVistas mobile and embedded products promise to push Linux into environments that are currently dominated by proprietary solutions. While this is nothing unique, whats interesting is MontaVistas focus on streamlining its mobile footprint to enable single-chip smartphones.
Most current-generation smartphones rely on two separate processors for their array of embedded software. This is part of the reason why smartphones have been out of reach for lower and mid-market consumers. MontVistas Mobilinux was designed to provide a full-features mobile-phone OS on single-chip phones. Mobilinux includes other features that help to reduce the cost, including those that enable handset manufactures to reduce device footprints, minimize RAM and ROM requirements, and maximize battery life.
Whats their track record? According to President and CEO Thomas F. Kelly, MontaVistas software has been deployed in tens of millions of devices and electronic equipment by over 2,000 customers.
As for mobile devices, Yankee Group analyst John Jackson notes that MontaVista Linux powers 20 million phones, most of which are available in Asian markets.
Funding: In December of last year, MontaVista secured $21 million in funding led by Siemens Venture Capital. Also participating were NEC, Alloy Ventures, US Venture Partners, Aplix and other unnamed investors.
What are the major obstacles to overcome? The opportunity is certainly there, but this is a crowded field. Venture Development Corporation (VDC) estimated that worldwide shipments of embedded/real-time and mobile application operating systems, bundled tools, and related services totaled over $1 billion in 2005. VDC expects that total to grow to $2 billion by 2008.
The various versions of mobile Linux are thus far only applicable for higher-end smartphones, meaning that the main near-term competition comes from market-leader Symbian, which has its own open-source initiatives. According to Gartner, Symbian accounted for about 71% percent of worldwide smartphone shipments in the second quarter of 2006. Microsoft, Palm, and RIM accounted for only about 3% percent of smartphone shipments each in the second quarter, with Linux accounting for the remaining 19%.
While Microsofts Windows Mobile is only slowly gaining traction and while RIM has been bogged down in legal wranglings, neither should be dismissed. The Palm OS, meanwhile, is staking its comeback on Linux. Since its acquisition by Tokyo-based Access, PalmSource has been working to transform its software into a middleware layer running on top of Linux. The Access Linux Platform was released at the 3GSM World Congress in February 2007.
Finally, a number of other vendors have leveraged their past embedded open-source efforts and entered the mobile fray, taking a path much like MontaVistas. These vendors include Trolltech, Wind River, and MIZI Research. The mobile company called a la mobile recently entered the field as a pure-play mobile Linux platform provider, and the space only promises to get more crowded as better chipset technology pushes smartphones to the mid-market.
Management Team: Thomas F. Kelly, president and CEO, was formerly CEO of BlueStar Solutions, which was acquired by Affiliated Computer Services. James Ready, CTO and VP of engineering, previously founded Ready Systems and served as its president. Russell Harris, EVP of worldwide field operations, was previously EVP and corporate officer of sales and marketing at BlueStar Solutions.
Scott Jaffe, VP of business development, previously held management positions with a number of companies, including at Sybase and Micro Decisionware. Jason Wacha, VP of corporate affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary, served as VP and general counsel for Advanced Data Exchange prior to joining MontaVista.