Linux gets boost from consumer electronics giants

Eight of the world's top consumer electronics suppliers have formed an alliance to promote development of the open-source...

Eight of the world's top consumer electronics suppliers have formed an alliance to promote development of the open-source operating system for use in digital devices including audio and visual equipment and mobile phones.

In a move that could, potentially, bring Linux to the masses, Sony, Philips Electronics and Matsushita, which makes the Panasonic brand, helped ;launch the CE Linux Forum (CELF) on 1 July.

Its goals include defining the technical requirements that will make Linux more suitable for consumer devices and promoting wider use of the OS in the consumer electronics industry.

The CELF will publish its list of requirements and take submissions from Linux developers who contribute to their goals. Work to be done includes reducing the time it takes to start up and shut down the OS, improving its real-time capabilities, reducing memory requirements and improving power management capabilities.

The move could be a blow to Microsoft, which has been promoting the use of its own software in DVD players, televisions and other electronics gear.

Formation of the CELF builds on an announcement in December by Matsushita and Sony, which said they had agreed to enhance the Linux platform for use in their audio and video products. At that time they also said they were considering establishing a forum to promote the wider use of Linux with participation from peers in the industry.

A spokeswoman for Philips said the company is interested in using Linux for "networked" electronics products, which can be linked together throughout the home. They might include stereos, speakers, printers and virtually any other type of electronics gear.

"[Consumer electronics] products are becoming more complex, so we need a new kind of operating system. By joining these eight companies together we think we can maybe design and enhance the Linux OS," she said.

Linux is already used in some consumer devices, Harpe noted, including Philips' iPronto, a universal remote control which has a Wi-Fi connection and doubles as a web surfing tablet.

Besides defining requirements for a variety of extensions to Linux, the CELF's main goals include "collaborating and reaching consensus with open-source projects" and the broader community of Linux developers and promoting the use of "CE Linux", as the group called it, in the industry.

Linux code developed for the industry can be submitted to a CELF Architecture Group and Steering Committee, the group said Tuesday. Code that is accepted will be included into the CELF source tree, which itself will be open to the public, according to the group's website.

The other members of the group are Toshiba,  Hitachi, NEC, Samsung and Sharp. IBM is also "pursuing membership in the group" and plans to be an active participant, according to the CELF statement. IBM could not immediately be reached for comment.

James Niccolai writes for IDG News Service

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