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CNET News.com: Could Linux make our convergence dreams come true?

Dec 20, 2001, 08:00 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Eliot Van Buskirk)

[ Thanks to Jason Greenwood for this link. ]

"Back when convergence gadgets that would marry entertainment devices with PCs were still a glimmer in engineers' eyes, many speculated about what operating system these contraptions would use. Microsoft was championing Windows CE as the perfect OS for set-top boxes and other convergence gadgets. Sun wouldn't stop talking about Jini , which CEO Scott McNealy said would introduce all the appliances in your house to each other as if they were old friends. Bottom line: The hype from both Microsoft and Sun was overblown and has not resulted in anything concrete. But now something has happened that I think will matter. Three equally important companies have chosen a dark horse on which to bet their digital music devices--the open source Linux operating system.

Back in 1999, when Sun and Microsoft were trying to tout themselves to me and every other tech journalist, they couldn't point to a single device that demonstrated what they were talking about. But when I reviewed the first MP3 player to use a hard drive (the Remote Solutions Personal Jukebox ) back in November of that year, I was looking at something that, in a way, demonstrated the sort of device connectivity that the companies were talking about. Granted, connecting an MP3 player to a computer is much simpler than configuring a home-entertainment network. But the fact that the product ran Linux meant that programmers could write software to make two parts of the device (the hard drive and the music player) talk to each other with ease. Where were Sun and Microsoft when the Personal Jukebox was looking for an operating system? Probably busy writing speeches to give at the next big trade show.

Creative Labs and Archos Technology released smaller hard drive-based players in the following year that ran their own proprietary operating systems, and I chalked up Remote Solutions' use of Linux to the fact that it was the sort of niche product suited to Linux experts (the product resulted from a group of engineers building one from scratch, then farming out production). But we here at CNET just recently reviewed two Linux-enabled devices that have all the earmarks of being the predecessors of several generations of digital devices to come: the portable Terapin Technology Mine TX2000 and the stationary HP Digital Entertainment Center DE100C."

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