August 24, 2001

Linux4.TV sponsors hope for all kinds of set-top development

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

Jon Buetler of Century Software thinks the sky is the limit for the Linux4.TV project, which officially launched this week.

Buetler is director of new business development for Century Software, a partner with National Semiconductor in the Linux4.TV set-top box project. The project is looking for developers and business partners to develop applications for set-top boxes based on the National Semiconductor Geode SC1200 integrated processor, and early features will include Web browsing and a DVD player, but Buetler doesn't rule out partnering with gaming developers or a TiVo-style recording device developer.

In fact, Buetler called out both TiVo and Playstation maker Sony, saying both companies could add functionality to their current products by participating. On a TiVo-like project, he says: "To my knowledge, the application hasn't been written for this device. However, I would suspect with all of the people I've talked to, that's high on their list. I'd like TiVo to get involved and be one of the resources for this project."

And although the Linux gaming console project Indrema project died quickly, Buetler says "everything is possible" when asked about the possibility of gaming. "With launching the Web page, we wanted to make sure we had the basics there for a set-top box, meaning hardware and the middleware APIs," he says. "Now that it's in place, we hope some of these gaming companies will come forward. You hear about the Playstation 2 already running Linux; this may be a good platform for Sony to use for their next-generation box."

In the short time the project's been announced, no gaming partners have come forward that Buetler's aware of. "I think it'll come, it really makes sense."

Century Software, which has been developing PC-to-Unix connectivity software for more than 16 years, isn't a new Linux convert. About three years ago, the company's founder and CEO, Greg Haerr, started a project called Microwindows, a replacement for X-Windows in embedded Linux systems. And partner National Semiconductor has used Linux to provide Internet access to Brazilian residents.

With the Linux4.TV project, National Semiconductor's business interest is fairly obvious, selling set-top boxes using the Geode processor. Century Software plans to make money by selling engineering and consulting services related to the project, Buetler says, as well as custom applications development and some proprietary software that partners can use with the boxes.

Several of the pieces of the project, such as Century Software's WebMedia Set-Top Box GUI and the SP1SC10 development platform already work and are being used by the sponsors' partners, and interested developers can order the hardware from National Semiconductor. The two sponsors will showing off a set-top box box at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo next week.

"Once you have the hardware, you can download all the projects that are available today and actually start producing commercial-grade set-top box applications," Buetler says. "The software's available today, and it's a good starting point for people."

Buetler says he's been happy with the interest in the project in its first few hours of release. The project caught a little flack on Slashdot for requiring registration to download the software, but Buetler says the registration hasn't seemed to stop people from looking around. The sponsors are using the registration to keep track of the interest in the project, he says.

Buetler's hope for the project is that it'll become a central repository for information and development for Linux set-top projects. "The good news is it's a big market, and there's a lot of people out there trying to do a lot of little things," he says. "Linux4.TV is to help jump-start these people and get them all working on the same playing field."


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