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Nokia recruits open-source game developers

The Finnish consumer-electronics giant hopes to spur Linux developers to make games and other software for its upcoming home entertainment console.

Consumer-electronics giant Nokia took the wraps off an independent site on Monday aimed at bringing Linux developers together to create games and other software for set-top boxes.

The company hopes the site,, will act as a focal point for the Linux community to create the new Open Standard Terminal specification, a blueprint for information appliance and home entertainment devices.

"This is a way of ensuring that there will be a multitude of applications," said Katarina H?gg, communications manager for Nokia Home Communications. "If there is a lot of developer support, there will be a lot of interesting content."

Nokia announced its own home-entertainment device, dubbed the Media Terminal, last September. Once connected to a television, the device will allow consumers to record TV programs, store and play MP3 audio files, connect to the Internet, and play games.

The company plans to release the device in Europe this summer and in the United States late this year or early in 2002.

Using Linux for such devices is not uncommon.

Sony uses Linux for its PlayStation 2 development and has recently released disks so hobbyists in Japan can use Linux as well. In addition, Tivo's digital video recorder uses Linux to drive its menus and interface.

With major competitors such as the PlayStation 2 for games and Tivo's device for home entertainment already finding firm footholds in the market, garnering support among developers is critical to the success of any new format.

While the site has less than a dozen projects signed up, Nokia hopes other companies will want to participate as well, said Jacki DeCoster, spokeswoman for open-source programming consultant CollabNet, which will maintain the site.

"It's a Nokia-sponsored site, but they are absolutely looking for other companies to contribute," she said.

Based on a 366MHz Celeron processor, the Nokia system will not have the graphics power of Sony's PlayStation 2 nor Microsoft's upcoming Xbox, said Nokia's H?gg. But it will be more flexible, she said.

"Obviously, performance is always important. But right now, the selling point is the multipurpose," she said, adding that upgrading the hardware is always an option. "It is open-source standard components. So others can take out standard components and improve them."

The plan is not without risks, H?gg acknowledged.

Another challenger to Sony and Microsoft, Indrema, hoped to garner support for its game console by adopting Linux and open standards. However, on April 6, the start-up closed its doors when it could not find any more funding.

That should not be a problem for Nokia, H?gg said.

"Even if the payback doesn't come tomorrow, there has to a leader who brings this to market," she said. "We do this because we believe."