Sony, Matsushita to Leverage Linux for Consumer Electronics

Sony, which has already begun to test the waters of using Linux on some consumer electronics audio visual (AV) devices, is moving to drive Linux farther into that space through a partnership with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.

The two consumer electronics giants announced Wednesday that they plan to jointly develop an enhanced Linux platform for digital home electronic devices. They also plan to release the source code they develop through the partnership under the General Public License (GPL), which governs use and modification of Linux.

While Sony has not specified exactly which products it plans to enable with the new platform, previous Sony forays into Linux for AV devices may provide a hint.

Sony has already released a Linux Kit for its Playstation 2 game console, and utilized Linux as the operating system of its CoCoon series of products. CoCoon, which stands for COnnected COmmunity On Network, encompasses gateway devices with large capacity hard disks and broadband connectivity — including WEGA televisions, the aforementioned Playstation 2 console, personal video recorders (PVR), VAIO computers, and “mobile devices” like phones. The PVR version, launched in Japan in November, allows the user to set preferences by selecting from 44 keywords, and the device can then access information online and record television programs matching those preferences. The device is capable of analyzing previous user choices and items stored on its hard disk to tailor the user profile.

Sony and Matsushita said they will study the functions and performance required for digital home electronics — like short start-up times and rapid response — and develop their Linux platform to meet those requirements. The project is currently planned to last until March, but may be extended.

To support their efforts, the companies said they are considering establishing a forum based on the results of their co-development. They said they plan to discuss the idea with companies supportive of utilizing Linux on consumer electronics devices, including Hitachi, IBM, NEC, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Sharp.