Out of the Gate, Ubuntu TV Is Drawing a Mix of Criticism and Praise

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 20, 2012

At the CES show in Las Vegas earlier this month, Canonical showed off Ubuntu TV, as we reported here. You can take a gander at it at the Ubuntu TV site, via a video. It's a new interface that integrates television and movie content on an open source platform that Canonical hopes will win developers over. The interface is based on Unity, the controversial interface that many Ubuntu users have wrestled with. In the days since the arrival of Ubuntu TV, some interesting hands-on reports and criticisms have arrived, but there is no question that this will be one of the big open source stories of 2012.

Canonical is clearly targeting big-screen televisions with Ubuntu TV, as seen here:

But, as The VAR Guy notes, one looming question is whether users will like the Unity-based interface on Ubuntu TV:

"...What’s received less attention amid all the fanfare is the role of Unity, the Linux desktop environment on which the new TV interface is based....But will open source users, in the end, be persuaded to terminate the revolt against Unity that some have undertaken — I’m thinking of the MATE fork of GNOME 2, for instance, and Linux Mint’s new Cinnamon interface — simply because Unity will work on their TV as well as their PC? No matter how excited developers may be about Unity and the opportunities it makes possible across different kinds of devices, I’m not convinced users will be equally happy."

These points are especially relevant because other attempts to bring a friendly computing-centric interface to televisions, including Boxee, have been well received already. Still, Ars Technica has taken Ubuntu TV for a very complete spin, and has many good things to say:

"Ubuntu TV is off to a good start, but it's clearly still at an early stage of development. It's not yet as mature or feature-complete as existing open source software projects for television, such as the popular MythTV environment. Despite the limited functionality and the lack of completeness, we still saw a lot to like in Ubuntu TV."

If you've ever wrestled with MythTV, you know that it's not the easiest platform to manage. See Kristin's report on it here. That's exactly where Canonical may be able to succeed: by creating a simple, friendly user interface.

Many tasks in Ubuntu TV are automated and friendly. It finds and organizes existing media that you own, and it uses good tools such as Gstreamer for video playback, but it's definitely version 1.0 technology. 

Mark Shuttleworth himself provided much of the early information about Ubuntu TV on his blog.  It's a good bet that as advanced versions of this platform arrive later this year, it will start to get attention from developers.