What is an embedded operating system?

Embedded operating systems (OS) aren’t new in the world of electronics. In fact, they’ve been utilized in numerous consumer electronics, medical appliances, and automotive computing to enable high-powered devices to execute different tasks. OSs are essential for smooth-running, fast-acting computing systems. To better understand embedded system features, let’s break down the basics for a comprehensive OS overview.

What’s an embedded OS?

Embedded OS is the operating system that runs smart devices like DVD players, gaming consoles, and computers. Embedded functions trim down the OS with limited features, allowing use in various contexts. Devices like PDAs, consumer electronics, and medical equipment perform day-to-day operations made possible by embedded operating systems. As such, they require tailor-made systems and software to function appropriately.

Some common examples of embedded OSs include Windows IoT, Symbian for portable phones, and Linux, which is the most popular variation. Linux has skyrocketed in popularity over the years due to high-quality processing features and efficient use of various systems’ resources, making it the preferred OS for most tech companies.

Why do most developers use Linux embedded OS?

If your company is heavy on IoT solutions, you likely understand that cost is a prime factor when developing appliances that rely on embedded OS. As a result, finding low-cost, high-functioning software is critical if you’re looking to scale your company. Developers and IT staff typically prefer systems like SUSE embedded Linux OS because of its high-powered, smooth-running capabilities. Additionally, it can run on a wide range of platforms, offer optimized management features, implement real-time security measures, and create flexible subscription models that lower costs substantially. 


But why exactly is Linux cheaper compared to other embedded systems? It’s simple—Linux is free and requires no royalties, unlike other OSs in the market. Because it’s cost-friendly, Linux is suitable for start-ups and businesses operating on a shoestring budget.


Beyond cost, developers prefer Linux for embedded OS because it’s highly customizable. Since Linux is open-source, developers can take the Linux kernel and distribute a product with unique, user-friendly features. Alternatively, developers and consumers alike can take existing models and add small changes to make a personalized version without forking out hoards of cash for the newest system.


Furthermore, companies utilize Linux for commercial-grade applications because of its stability. Since many developers use Linux, support is widely available at any time—day or night. Developers can take advantage of free, expert advice from Linux Users Groups (LUGs) in almost every country.


Due to its flexible and versatile system functions, Linux is hard to beat. Linux can run on several appliances, large or small, like flash disks, DVD players, or larger devices like PCs. With high-quality, diverse features at your disposal, you’ll be able to deploy applications across several cards, boards, and systems quickly and efficiently.

How to choose an embedded OS

Choosing the perfect embedded OS depends on your objectives, device functions, go-to-market time, and responsiveness required. Regardless of your needs, review these few questions when choosing an OS to ensure its features are right for your company’s needs.

Is timing vital? 

If you need an appliance where precise timing is a differentiator, then real-time embedded operating systems are a must-have.

Is memory size limited? 

A typical Linux kernel is approximately 1.5MBs. However, this size could be too large for some systems, resulting in system crashes or complete failure to implement. As a result, a customized kernel with the appropriate size is imperative to the application’s success.

Will there be GUI? 

For appliances that rely heavily on a graphical user interface, a pre-installed GUI would be preferable. Consider your product’s core functions to select an embedded OS with the necessary GUI capabilities.

Parting words

For organizations that rely on embedded OS, opting for a low-cost, secure, and scalable system is critical in designing appliances that resonate with customer needs. With the perfect embedded operating system, you’ll encounter efficient hardware and reduced response time, which will make development a breeze and customer satisfaction achievable.