Ubuntu TV is an open-source project that enjoys the commercial support of Canonical. It has the depth and strength that come from having thousands of contributors from every walk of life and every conceivable professional discipline, working together to make something for themselves, and everyone else. And it gets stronger when more people contribute. Canonical, a services and software company that backs open-source projects like Ubuntu, recently announced they would be moving to compete in the Smart TV space. The project, called Ubuntu TV, is be based on Ubuntu Linux and be open-sourced, though the project is not targeted at DIYers like XBMC, rather it is aimed at manufacturers to integrate within the TV rather than as a set-top box.
All broadcast television
Terrestrial broadcast in US and EU standard formats, for standard or high definition content, with integrated electronic programme guides.
Cable and satellite possibilities
Integrate your cable or satellite service into Ubuntu TV, to provide a unified customer experience. Ubuntu bridges the gap between television manufacturers and cable or satellite providers.
Endless online entertainment
Ubuntu TV integrates online content providers to offer a diverse catalogue of movies, TV shows and music straight from the Internet. Take advantage of Canonical’s services framework and content partners, or integrate your own services.
Second-screen experiences are an emerging trend in broadcast television. Link phones or tablets to Ubuntu TV, presenting related content to viewers while they watch. Provide information on movies by the same director, for example, or the reaction on Twitter during live shows – without any distraction from the action.
The wealth of online content can leave viewers overwhelmed by choice. To simplify and streamline the experience we can prioritise what channels and shows have previously enjoyed, and even make suggestions on what else they might like. Ubuntu TV puts the world’s content at your fingertips in a simple interface.
Individual preferences and suggestions
Record TV shows with a separate playlist for each viewer – so Dad’s needn’t fill up with episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club. And because the TV can learn what Dad likes over time, it can suggest programmes he might want to watch that day, or movies to record in the week ahead.
As a flavor of Ubuntu Linux, the end user would be able to install whatever Linux apps they please; accessing and using them from the TV optimized UI might pose a challenge, though. Custom UIs would obviously be a possibility, and community built applications for Ubuntu TV would be supported. But when we’re talking content, a walled garden is always a necessity.
That’s where Canonical comes in with their Ubuntu One platform. Unlike their Linux products, Ubuntu One is a closed-source client and server side solution that provides file and content distribution in a managed fashion. Though they didn’t go into specifics, they would likely utilize an authorization based approach similar to Verizon FiOS’ IPTV on Xbox 360 app. Users would purchase a television with a unique identifier, would register the device from their location with the content provider’s service, and whenever they accessed their media, authorization would be verified through Ubuntu One. While the Linux community is not generally one to accept restrictions happily, some DRM is requisite in order to attract content providers and allow the platform to succeed We were assured several times, though, that the software platform (separate from the content management component) would be fully-open sourced. And though the Linux platform is capable of running on x86 or ARM-based hardware, Canonical expects shipping products to be based on ARM chipsets and sees optimization of the software on a particular hardware platform as a source of monetization, along with providing the DRM solution.
The Smart TV space is growing rapidly, and like 3D before it, will dominate the television market over the next several years. Unlike, 3D televisions though, the nitty gritty of these latest Smart TVs falls right in our bread and butter, so expect us to spend more time discussing and evaluating these devices as they make it to market.
Download the code
The entire source code for the Ubuntu TV demo is available on the Ubuntu TV Launchpad page. To download, compile and run the code, you will need Ubuntu 11.10 and a working OpenGL driver, preferably with synchronisation to VBlank enabled.
Detailed compilation and installation instructions are maintained in the Ubuntu Wiki.