Broadcom's On Board With Linux. Who's Next?

By Brian Proffitt

October 08, 2010

By announcing Linux support for its latest Wi-Fi chipsets, Broadcom suggests a brighter future for Linux users everywhere.

Though they might not have admitted it in public at the time, Linux advocates spent a large of the last decade grumbling about poor support for wireless networking devices. A big source of their discontent was Wi-Fi chip maker Broadcom, which produced a lot of the mobile chipsets and never got around to releasing Linux drivers for its wares.

Now, however, Broadcom has begun to release Linux drivers licensed liberally enough for distribution with the Linux kernel. Besides making life easier for Linux laptop users, Enterprise Networking Planet columnist Brian Proffitt suggests that holdout manufacturers might start seeing the sense of broadening their own support of Linux.


Looking forward, the ease-of-use benefits will make it easier for Linux to be shipped as an OEM platform, and installed post-market by technology adopters. More importantly, having a major hardware vendor like Broadcom take a look at Linux and decide to invest the time and effort in creating a Linux driver should mean that other hardware vendors sitting on the fence regarding a Linux driver for their own offerings may come to the conclusion that Linux is something they can no longer ignore.

They may have come to that conclusion already. The success of the Android operating system has pushed a lot of vendors (including Broadcom) to create drivers for Android devices. The BCM4319 and BCM4329 SDIO chipsets were already supported on Android, which is close enough to Linux to get support for those devices into Android's predecessor. As Android shows up on more devices, you can expect to see more Linux-ready hardware drivers appearing in the near future.

Linux will also be collecting drivers on its own merits, I would expect. Whatever the tipping point was for Broadcom to release this driver, I have a hard time believing other vendors won't be following suit quickly, especially given how resistant to Linux Broadcom has been in the past.

It is, after all, just one driver among many, and there are indeed many more drivers needed. But Broadcom may the the leader of a driver rush for Linux, which is something the operating system has needed for a long time

Read "What Do Broadcom Drivers Mean for Linux Uptake?" at Enterprise Networking Planet



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