"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
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
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."