Open Source and the Digital Living Room

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 29, 2008

Are digital living rooms the next frontier for open source? I've had my eye on some interesting developments in this area recently. Ars Technica has a good analysis of the announcements from Neuros last week at OSCON about how open source set-top boxes are headed our way. And Matt Asay has a good item up about Open Remote and Control4--both focused on open source home automation. How far can embedded Linux and other open source offerings go in the digital living room and home automation spaces?

Ars Technica cites this quote from Joe Born, CEO of Neuros: "The conventional view of convergence has largely been surrounding PCs," said Born. "But if you take a step back, you see a lot of things that PC isn't the answer for. Embedded devices still remain cheaper."

At OSCON, Born talked about how embedded Linux devices will bring open source to set-top boxes. He also showed how applications can be built for Neuros OSD, a programmable digital video recorder.

In the case of Open Remote, it's worth looking around the project's site. Open Remote is focused on numerous home automation sub-projects ranging from entertainment options to lighting controls. Marc Fleury, the founder of JBoss, oversees the project.

As Matt Asay points out, Control4 may be significant competition for Open Remote. This company has been on my radar for a while. Its lighting, audio/video, touch-screen, and other controllers are primarily Linux-based, and they're inexpensive online-ordered products.

I agree with Joe Born that embedded devices, peripherals and controllers of the type Control4 focuses on may be more promising solutions for home automation than computers are. The idea that a computer would be at the center of the digital living room has many problems, including long boot times when the user just wants to execute a simple task, as well as the cost issues Born cites above. Look for more purpose-driven, dedicated devices around homes based on Linux and other open source cores.