Intel promotes ease of use in Linux appliances

Intel is preparing to release a new software developer kit that could allow vendors to offer Linux-based internet appliances and home networking products that are much easier to configure and use, the chip maker announced yesterday.

The kit will allow hardware and software makers to add ease-of-use features to their products based on an industry specification called Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), Intel said. UPnP enables devices to automatically identify and configure themselves when they are connected to a network, hiding the complexity of that work from the end user.

Ironically, UPnP was developed by Microsoft, which launched the technology at the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Linux is seen by some as a potent competitor to Microsoft Windows.

Called Universal Plug and Play Software Developer Kit V.1.0 for Linux, Intel's software provides developers with a cost-effective way to integrate UPnP features in Linux-based products such as internet appliances, residential gateways and home networking products, according to Intel.

The software is due to be released in the third quarter and will be made available through a royalty-free open-source licence. It includes an API (application programming interface) and Linux source code. The API aims to hide the details of the UPnP mechanics from end users and helps vendors build UPnP capabilities into their devices.

The kit will be implemented and tested on the Linux operating system and will interoperate with UPnP implementations on Windows ME, Microsoft's forthcoming operating system for consumers.

Developers can sign up at Intel's website, at http://www.intel.com/ial/upnp/, to be notified when the software development kit is released. Developers who use commercial Linux distributions can also expect to see UPnP support in some of these distributions by the end of this year, Intel said.

The chip maker is planning other events to support UPnP in the future. In August, Intel will hold a UPnP workshop at its developer conference, and in September, the company will hold a "plug-fest" at its Hillsboro, Oregon, facility, where developers will be able to test prototype devices for UPnP interoperability.

More information about the Universal Plug and Play Forum, an industry group spearheading the development of the technology, is on the web at http://www.upnp.org/.

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