If your answer is Windows, you're plain wrong. It's ITRON, a Japanese real-time OS kernel that can be customized for any small-scale embedded systems. According to LinuxInsider.com, it is used by more than 3 billion microprocessors found in mobile phones, digital cameras, CD players and many other electronic devices including even satellites.
ITRON emerged as an ambitious Japanese initiative known as The Real-time Operating system Nucleus (TRON). Launched in 1984, TRON was designed to replace disparate computer systems with a unified, open architecture for a "total computer environment."
Its ultimate goal was to create "highly functionally distributed systems" in which all system components are connected to a real-time network. Professor Ken Sakamura, spiritual father of TRON, conceived the project as a social infrastructure akin to the electrical power grid or water supply system.
ITRON, the first in a series of open-source specifications for the TRON architecture, answered a pressing need for Japan's electronics firms, which traditionally have written their own software for embedded systems, a time-consuming and cumbersome process that often results in a plethora of different and incompatible systems.
ITRON has been followed by several other specifications -- among them Business TRON (BTRON), a multilingual, ubiquitous computing environment with a programmable GUI, and Communications and Central TRON (CTRON), a real-time, multitasking operating system akin to Unix.
In the United States, ITRON has a competitor, RTLinux, the real-time version of Linux developed by FSMLabs, Inc.
[But] Steven Searle, who worked on developing TRON's multilingual environment, argues that ITRON has several advantages over real-time versions of Linux. "TRON is an RTOS; Linux isn't," Searle told LinuxInsider, adding that ITRON has a smaller footprint and superior real-time performance.
"RTLinux switches tasks in milliseconds, while ITRON switches tasks in microseconds," he said. "RTLinux' footprint is measured in megabytes; ITRON is measured in kilobytes."
So, what's the future for this market? It's definitively open-source.
The T-Engine Forum, an offshoot of the TRON project with more than 250 member companies, has been working to create a standardized development environment for embedded applications based on ITRON.
[And] MontaVista Software is actually helping to create a non-native kernel extension of TRON called T-Linux -- an environment for running middleware. T-Engine and Linux will form a base for developing application software that will include the eTRON chip, an encryption device that offers secure data transfer across wireless networks and the Internet.
This alliance between TRON and Linux could put more pressure on vendors of proprietary embedded software. Proprietary software is costly -- vendors usually charge royalties for each microprocessor running the software -- and licensing terms are often restrictive. Moreover, nearly all of the giants in the consumer electronics industry are rallying around open-source solutions.
Source: Jan Krikke, LinuxInsider.com, October 15, 2003
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