Linux set for expansion in consumer television

Linux, the popular free computer operating system, is on track to be the software of choice for future television receivers, set-top boxes and DVD recorders, reports Reuters news service.

Now used mostly for computer servers, Linux is now emerging as a small set of computing code for popular consumer electronics products. "The consumer electronics industry has chosen the Linux platform in large numbers. For us, Linux has several advantages," said Gerard Kleisterlee, chief executive at Philips Electronics, the world's No. 3 consumer electronics maker, in an interview with Reuters.

Reasons for the popularity of Linux: low-cost and the freedom to tweak the software, manufacturers say. Eight of the world's largest consumer electronics manufacturers, including Sony and Matsushita of Japan, last month set up an alliance to develop and promote Linux for consumer products. Linux's key advantage over other operating systems, Reuters said, is that the core software is freely available and widely embraced. "The consumer electronics makers sell millions of devices while their profit margins are extremely slim. If they have don't have to pay royalties it works directly through to their bottom line," Martin Fink, head of Linux activities at Hewlett-Packard, told Reuters in an interview.

Linux's core software, also known as kernel, which drives the chips and other basic functions of a device, can be as small as one megabyte if embedded in a consumer electronics product, Fink added. A single high quality digital picture or one minute of MP3 music can be stored on a single megabyte of memory. The next big target is the 164 million units a year global television set market, as well as the millions of set top boxes and DVD recorders. These devices need more powerful chips and versatile software like Linux to connect easily to other devices in the home and the Web, Reuters reported.

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