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Linux meets the tube

Jan 23, 20062 mins
CablesEnterprise ApplicationsLinux

* Penguins on TV - IPTV that is

Clearly, March of the Penguins is coming to a living room near you; and I’m not talking about the DVD release of the acclaimed penguin documentary.

Last week’s news of Motorola purchasing Swedish set-top box maker Kreatel Communications is another step towards the “Linux-ification” of the digital home.

Kreatel makes Linux-based set top boxes that provide satellite/cable TV decoding, as well as other features such as digital video recording and the emerging technology of IPTV, which has the potential to deliver tens of thousands of TV channels over IP broadband links.

Motorola is tops among set top box makers, and its interest in a Linux platform is a good sign for backers of the open source operating system. But Motorola’s chief rival in this market, Cisco (with its purchase of cable box maker Scientific Atlanta last year), is also no Linux newbie (see “What is Cisco doing with Linux?”). Many of Cisco’s platforms are based on open source and Linux software. A recent job posting for a Linux software engineer by Scientific Atlanta indicates that Linux could become an even higher priority in Cisco’s set top box efforts.

TiVO’s choice of Linux for its DVR devices helped bring attention to the benefits of Linux as a platform for consumer electronics, not to mention a whole community of TiVO hackers, interested in tinkering with Linux code tied to the TV. Motorola’s and Cisco’s apparent move towards Linux is another step.

As TV sets become tied to the Internet with IPTV, the issues of security and reliability of set top boxes will become more prominent. But as a consumer, do you care what operating system runs on your cable box? I’d be interested to hear readers’ thoughts on this.