Welcome back to another Crystal Ball Sunday. Those of you who celebrate freedom on July 4 hopefully have had a safe and enjoyable holiday. Freedom comes in packages of all shapes and sizes and this week's Crystal Ball Sunday is about freedom in small packages: Embedded Devices.

Embedded device refers to a piece of hardware that has limited resources (memory, power, range) and usually has a very specific function--sometimes a singular function. This means that the operating system that the device uses must have a very small footprint and be energy efficient.

Embedded devices are as diverse as the above description implies--from mobile phones, routers, and thin clients to digital watches, MP3 players, and traffic lights to robotic brains, microservers, and virtual appliances. As technology advances and component sizes shrink, the embedded device market is going to continue its expanse.

Linux will most likely be the operating system of choice for these devices. It's well suited for such applications because of its small footprint, modular design, built-in automation, open licensing, customizability, and last but not least; It's price--free. Free is not to be taken lightly in today's market. It may just be the edge up-and-coming builders and integrators need to boost their products into the marketplace at a much lower price point than their better known competitors.

Freedom from cost isn't the only reason to choose Linux for embedded devices. The freedom to innovate is another huge reason in the eyes of developers since they can produce new products and applications--even commercial ones--without being held for liscensing ransom.

Linux on embedded devices is already here--no crystal ball needed. The crystal ball's use in this instance is to inform you of what's just over the horizon for embedded devices and Linux. Keep a close watch in this soon to boom space.

Have something to contribute to this discussion? Please be thoughtful, detailed and courteous, and be sure to adhere to our posting rules.