Confirmation: Motorola Will Deliver an Android-Based Set-Top Box
Recently, we've covered several new opportunities, including non-phone platforms such as netbooks, e-ink devices, and set-top boxes, for Google's open source Android operating system. Today, GigaOm and Information Week are discussing confirmation of what is likely to be the first fully-realized, non-phone hardware implementation of Android: a set-top box from Motorola called "au Box." It's being made by Motorola for Japanese Internet service provider KDDI, and, according to Information Week, "it will be capable of playing DVDs and CDs, transferring music and video to a mobile device, and ripping and storing files." That sounds a lot like full-blown computer, and there is another way the au Box will be a lot like a computer. Here are more details.
Just a few days ago, I wrote about the Open Embedded Software Foundation's (OESF) efforts to bring Android to many new hardware platforms. The OESF is a Japanese consortium backed by many heavy-hitting companies, and the group has confirmed that at this fall's CEATEC trade show, it will be demonstrating multiple Android-powered prototype hardware devices ranging from TVs, to set-top boxes, to VoIP phones. The OESF has been involved with moving along the au Box Android-based set-top box from Motorola.
In addition to playing DVDs and CDs, transferring music and video to mobile devices, and ripping and storing files, the au Box will have a full-featured Chrome-like browser (I'm betting its actually based on the Chromium core within Chrome, although that is not confirmed). It sounds like the au Bos is for real, too. A reader of GigaOm's post on the au Box wrote in to mention that Motorola already ships Linux-based au Box set-top boxes in Japan, and will be transitioning them to Android.
So, as we've said many times, the worrisome fact that just one Android-based phone--the T-Mobile G1--has been defining Android's prospects for many people will not stand. Android is going to head, in true open source fashion, for many types of hardware devices. Dell is reportedly going to make smartphones, headed for China, based on Android. Android already works on E-Ink devices, and it is running successfully on prototype netbooks. Let's not count this open source operating system out yet, especially as the new, much more robust version of Android arrives.