Canonical has used the CES Show to give the first demonstration of Ubuntu TV, the latest piece of the company’s strategy of shifting the Linux-based OS away from its traditional focus on desktop computing.
At this stage, Canonical’s “TV for human beings” is mostly an aspiration to see manufacturers incorporate the software as part of their smart television developments to bind together TV, PVR, cloud and content streamed from the Internet and smartphones under one interface.
With domestic technologies such as TV sets about to gain more processing power, creating a device able to cope with these demands is easier than it sounds. Because it turns TVs into full-fledged computers, the software complexity steps up a level from anything in use today where vendors simply do their best - and usually fail - to integrate islands of proprietary technology.
Worse, smart TVs are no longer display devices so much as hubs that act as a central point through which other devices connect.
The company will offer TV makers a vanilla version using the Unity interface and its forthcoming Ubuntu 12.04 ‘Precise Pangolin’ that vendors can then adjust to reflect the underlying hardware as needed.
And why would they be interested at all? Because Ubuntu is ready-to-roll right now and will be open to all rather than to one vendor seeking competitive advantage. In Canonical’s view this sort of proprietary approach is restricting in the longer term.
“Ubuntu TV is a vision of how TV will work in the future. With no cables, no boxes and no hassles, the goal is to uncomplicate television for the average viewer while delivering to him or her all the services and options that they are becoming used to,” said Canonical’s John Bernard in a blog.
The diversification approach has been well signposted by Canonical for some months. One hurdle could be that the company is effectively bundling its own services, including the Ubuntu One cloud and its own content portal to handle TV subscriptions.
Whether manufacturers or users will be interested in these while larger rivals Google, Apple and Microsoft have their own Internet TV ambitions remains to be seen.