Campaign wants IBM to open up on set-top box

A global campaign shows IBM to be standing against the tide of open source, as far as the ‘next wave’ of Set Top Box (STB) chips is concerned.

As IBM explicitly puts pressure on Sun to make Java open source, a global campaign is asking IBM to follow suit and make its STB chip series open source. The series is currently hidden behind a closed documentation policy.

The STB series will enable manufacturers to design advanced functions to support Web browsing, Internet gaming, e-commerce, e-mail, Java, and numerous other interactive applications with single chip solutions.

Campaign organiser and spokesperson Andrew Stuart believes these chips are set to rewrite the rules of the IT, gaming, broadband and television industries.

“If you are looking for the next wave, the next big thing, the thorn in the side of Microsoft, it is in STB chips,” he said.

Stuart predicts that within five years every television will have an STB chip and, if the documentation becomes open source, Linux will have a massive lounge room penetration.

“Set Top Box technology is the most exciting new technology frontier - forget wireless, this is a technology that will really have an impact on everyone, and I mean everyone.

“Set Top Box chips are very cheap and run at a low temperature - they don't need noisy fans that cannot be tolerated in the lounge room.

“The trend towards lower costs and higher power in the STB chip is leading to it being used within the television itself. Why bother with an external box - just put the computer inside the television.”

According to Stuart, within a few years, every television that is manufactured will have a Set Top Box chip built into it and an Ethernet port to plug the television into the home network. ”Every television will be a Set Top Box.”

Stuart explains that although Windows CE can run on STB hardware, the reality is that almost every STB runs Linux because it is free and because Linux adapts easily to new hardware.

“We're talking about manufacturing large numbers of televisions here, and television manufacturers such as Sony do not want to be paying licence fees to Microsoft for each unit.

“What I'm suggesting is that in the very near future, every television will BE a Linux computer.”

Mr Stuart cannot understand why IBM, which loudly proclaims the value of open standards, throwing its weight behind Linux and other open source projects such as Eclipse, is not making the documentation freely available.

“It seems very strange that in 2004 it is necessary for me to explain to IBM what the advantage is of being "open" instead of being proprietary and closed,” he said.

“The entire IT industry has been in revolution for the past four or five years as a direct result of the open standards and open computing.”

A spokesperson for IBM said they are aware of the campaign and will respond to any enquiries individually.

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