Linux Makes Inroads Into Consumer Electronics

Sony, which has already begun to test the waters of using Linux on some
consumer electronics audio visual (AV) devices, is moving to drive Linux
farther into that space through a partnership with Matsushita Electric
Industrial Co.

The two consumer electronics giants announced Wednesday that they plan to
jointly develop an enhanced Linux platform for digital home electronic
devices. They also plan to release the source code they develop through the
partnership under the General Public License (GPL), which governs use and
modification of Linux.

While Sony has not specified exactly which products it plans to enable with
the new platform, previous Sony forays into Linux for AV devices may
provide a hint.

Sony has already released a Linux Kit for its Playstation 2 game console,
and utilized
as the operating system of its CoCoon series of products. CoCoon,
which stands for COnnected COmmunity On Network, encompasses gateway
devices with large capacity hard disks and broadband connectivity —
including WEGA televisions, the aforementioned Playstation 2 console,
personal video recorders (PVR), VAIO computers, and “mobile devices” like
phones. The PVR version, launched in Japan in November, allows the user to
set preferences by selecting from 44 keywords, and the device can then
access information online and record television programs matching those
preferences. The device is capable of analyzing previous user choices and
items stored on its hard disk to tailor the user profile.

Sony and Matsushita said they will study the functions and performance
required for digital home electronics — like short start-up times and
rapid response — and develop their Linux platform to meet those
requirements. The project is currently planned to last until March, but may
be extended.

To support their efforts, the companies said they are considering
establishing a forum based on the results of their co-development. They
said they plan to discuss the idea with companies supportive of utilizing
Linux on consumer electronics devices, including Hitachi, IBM, NEC, Royal
Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Sharp.

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