Philips pushes Linux for consumer electronics

Philips and Intel are using Linux and XScale to make it easier for manufacturers to build next-generation home entertainment devices
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

A new project by Intel and Philips is using the Linux operating system to boost the market for converged consumer electronics. The Pronto++ reference platform, announced on Tuesday, is based on Intel's XScale line of embedded processors and, initially at least, an embedded Linux distribution.

Pronto++ grew out of of Philips' Pronto line of advanced remote controls, and the companies expect to make converged devices such as digital media players and Internet set-top boxes as easy to use as a remote. "In a single device, consumers will have access to interactive digital content consisting of music, pictures, video, gaming and other unique infotainment services," said Peter Green, general manager of Intel's Extended Computing division, in a statement.

The platform runs on Intel's PXA250 processor, which uses ARM-based XScale technology. A representative said that the platform will initially use a third-party embedded Linux distribution, although the vendor has not been named. It will also run with other embedded operating systems, including Microsoft's Windows CE. Customers will get reference hardware and complete hardware, software and interface designs, though they will be able to customise the products' look and feel.

A number of manufacturers have already ventured into the converged home entertainment market, but Pronto++ aims to make the process of coming up with a new product much cheaper and faster. Because companies do not have to design their own product from the ground up, the process will be 30 to 50 percent faster, Philips claimed.

Linux is used in some consumer electronics, such as the TiVO digital video recorder, because it is freely available, stable and highly customisable.

So far, converged devices have not proven an enormous success, with consumers showing little interest in "Internet appliances" that provide online access without a PC. More recent attempts have focused on integrating PC technology into home electronics such as stereos, with some manufacturers selling stereos that are able to download music files from a PC or the Internet.

Sony and Microsoft are hoping to turn their respective gaming consoles into home-entertainment hubs by giving them online access.

Philips said it is working on a number of Linux consumer electronics products based on Pronto++, and will unveil the first one at the CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) home electronics trade show on 25-29 September.

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