Linux: Live in your living room

First it was Linux games. Then it was embedded Linux running on consumer devices. Now Intel is pushing Linux for your home network

Intel continues to beat the drum for Linux. Now, it's promoting Linux in the home.

On Thursday, Intel said it will release as open source a Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) development kit for the Linux operating system. UPnP, originally developed by Microsoft, is a technology that allows a number of different kinds of devices to communicate via a network using standard protocols, such as TCP/IP.

UPnP is similar in concept to Microsoft's existing Plug and Play protocol: plug in a device, and it is automatically recognized by the operating system. At least in theory, it just works.

The new Intel UpnP development kit will allow Linux device makers to develop a control interface for UPnP. Using the interface, a device would be able to locate, recognize and interact with other UPnP-enabled devices. For example, an Internet appliance using Linux would be able to access a UPnP-enabled printer.

"UPnP allows (devices) to participate in the same economy... with the end user not having to understand how to set up an IP address," said David Nash, director of marketing for Intel's Intel Architecture Labs Connected Home project.

Microsoft is building UPnP into its future Windows releases, starting with its Windows Millennium Edition. But, not surprisingly, Microsoft has no plans to offer support for Linux with UPnP.

For Intel, on the other hand, Linux support is a no-brainer.

"We didn't pick Linux out of our hat," Nash said. "We recognize that Linux, because of its merits, has (secured) a tremendous amount of design wins."

Intel has made numerous Linux announcements and investments in the past year. Just this week, it rolled out a Linux IA-64 developer's kit, in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard Co.

Linux already has a foothold in Internet access devices, residential gateways, which are used to connect a number of devices on a home network to the Internet, and home network products themselves, according to Intel.

Intel is expecting Linux developers to begin announcing UPnP-enabled devices in the fourth quarter of this year, with volume shipment of such devices by the first half of next year.

The development kit, including source code and documentation, will be made freely available this summer, in July or August, Nash said. Intel will also offer a hardware reference implementation to go with its UPnP kit.

Intel officials said they expect that major Linux distributors will incorporate the technology in future revisions of their Linux distributions. So far, none of the big four distributors -- Red Hat, Caldera Systems, TurboLinux or SuSE -- has made an announcement to that effect.

Intel made the announcement at a UPnP summit at Microsoft in the US. The UPnP Forum, the industry group working to develop UPnP, currently has about 140 members.

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