Samsung Gets Extra Cozy With Linux Foundation

Samsung on Tuesday deepened its involvement in the Linux ecosystem, reportedly upgrading its silver membership in The Linux Foundation to platinum and forking over the US$500,000 annual membership dues its new status requires.

The move will give Samsung a seat on the Foundation’s board alongside six other industry heavyweights, including IBM, Intel and Qualcomm.

That could help the company, which is the largest manufacturer of handsets using Google’s Linux-based Android OS, shape the future of Linux.

“While board-level participation at the Linux Foundation is no guarantee of specific features and functionalities making their way into Linux, it gives Samsung a stronger starting position for influencing Linux Foundation initiatives and enhances the company’s already substantial profile among the developer community,” Bill Weinberg, principal analyst at Linux Pundit, told LinuxInsider.

“Besides the money, the Foundation’s got a huge commitment from Samsung for a lot of development efforts which will feed back,” said Jim McGregor, president of Tirias Research, said.

Samsung is “going to make multiple bets in multiple areas [using Linux] because they have the resources and they can support multiple solutions for different markets, usage models, devices, different everything,” McGregor told LinuxInsider.

Samsung’s Reach Into Linux

Samsung “develops and deploys on Linux across the complete gamut of its offerings, from handsets running Android and, soon, Tizen and Bada, to consumer electronics offerings to core networking equipment and beyond,” Linux Pundit’s Weinberg said. “No other single Foundation board member can boast comparable end-to-end offerings or a footprint that touches so many markets.”

This, together with Samsung’s position on the Foundation’s board, will make the company “ideally positioned to lead by example, further amplifying Linux adoption and adhering to best practices for open source management and governance across multiple segments and accompanying ecosystems,” Weinberg said.

Tizen, an open source, standards-based software platform for the mobile market, is being developed jointly by Samsung, Intel and the Linux Foundation. Bada is Samsung’s smartphone platform.

Samsung might leverage its new role to further the development and adoption of Tizen as well as its own Bada platform, Weinberg disclosed. “One possible and probable development is a tighter integration of Bada into Tizen and some level of stewardship by the Linux Foundation in the evolution of the two as a single platform.”

Further, if Samsung takes a larger role in Linux, that “can help Samsung avoid Android fragmentation, or at least shape the Android roadmap to meet its needs and those of its partners,” Weinberg suggested.

Servers, Anyone?

Samsung may have its eyes on yet another prize: the up-and-coming market for servers based on 64-bit ARM processors.

“Samsung and other vendors will target servers on the 64-bit ARM architecture on the system and device side, and Linux is very big in servers,” Tirias Research’s McGregor said. “Samsung’s participation in the Linux community will help them as they look at architectures for servers and other applications.”

On Tuesday, ARM introduced a server from Mitac that will support the chip manufacturer’s 64-bit processors in 2014. Last week, Dell announced plans to begin providing some customers with ARM processors. It will also install ARM-based servers in some of its solutions centers for customers to try out. And HP partnered with startup Calxeda last fall to develop very low-power systems running on ARM-based processors.

Web-based companies and other firms that use large numbers of servers are interested in ARM-based servers because they consume less power than other vendors’ chips.

Samsung “will get a lot out of [its membership upgrade],” McGregor suggested. “Their participation in the Linux community will help them as they look at architecture for servers and other applications.”

Neither Samsung nor the Linux Foundation responded to our request for more details.

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