Culture

Linux tapped to be audiovisual aid

Sony and Matsushita say they will concoct a new version of the open-source operating system for consumer electronics devices such as digital video recorders.

Audiovisual gear for the home, such as digital video recorders, from Sony and other manufacturers could soon have a new version of Linux inside.

Sony and Matsushita said Wednesday that, under a new joint development agreement, they will concoct a new version of the open-source operating system for consumer electronics devices. Linux is primarily used in servers, PCs and communications equipment.

The companies will collaborate to create a version of Linux that boots quickly and offers snappy performance for use in digital video recorders and other audiovisual devices. Digital video recorders capture television programs and store them on a hard drive for later viewing. The operating system might also be used in portable devices, the companies said in a statement.

Like many other large companies such as IBM, Sony and Matsushita have increased their investment in Linux. Panasonic, which is owned by Matsushita, earlier this year invested in MontaVista Software. MontaVista creates Linux for electronics devices such as ATMs and network routers. Sony also uses MontaVista's software in some products.

Sony and Matsushita will release their new operating system under Linux's General Public License, which essentially states that companies or individuals can alter the software as long as they also make those changes freely available.

Given the level of interest in the consumer electronics market, the companies are also considering setting up a forum to promote the further development of Linux. To date Hitachi, IBM, NEC Electronics, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Sharp have all expressed interest in the operating system, Sony and Matsushita said.

Access to a fully developed operating system can save companies a significant amount of money by cutting the number of software engineers, the development time and the testing needed to put out new products.

The new operating system could also compete with software such as Microsoft's Windows CE, a stripped-down version of Windows for devices ranging from PDAs (personal digital assistants) to gas pumps.

Sony played down the possible competition with Windows. The company uses a wide range of operating systems in its various products. It uses Windows CE in some devices, including projectors, designed to work with PCs.

It also uses the Palm OS in its Clie PDA and a version of MontaVista's Linux software in its "Cocoon" Internet-connected digital video recorder, sold in Japan.

Reuters contributed to this report.