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Nokia and Intel to make Linux-based Set-Top Box 55

hkon writes "Nokia and Intel are apparently going to make a set-top box that "integrates the internet and digital TV" Intel claims it'll "change the nature of television". Does that mean I can't watch silly american sitcoms on sunday mornings anymore? =)" Talks about internet TV delivery, which I'm a big fan of. But something tells me that'll be awhile.
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Nokia and Intel to make Linux-based Set-Top Box

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  • I wonder if they'll make the browser part of the interface, or the interface part of the browser. I'd prefer the first, but I can see that running everything through a nice themeable browser would be very attractive for a comsumer device.

    Doing my Arthur C Clark bit, I'd expect this to be actually on sale mid 2000, and given that intel and nokia are pushing it, it may be sucessful.
  • I love the idea of internet over television, and integration between the two, but is this going to be a cable settop box, or is this going to be a stand-alone telephone based product like WebTV?

    It's such a great idea, Internet on TV, but I don't see how they'll get this in a settop box at a price that cable companies will like, which would relegate it to the job of being a computer which happens to display on a digital TV, which doesn't really impress me at all.

  • While I agree with your statements, they are almost a direct plagiarism from Steve Jobs.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
  • The project is doomed. ;)
  • Hmm... by TV quality I assume that we are talking about 24 frames / sec and maybe 640x480... just to make math easy... Without some sort of compression (which would have to be lossy) you are streaming 7.4 million pixels a second. That is a lot... even if you have one frame a second, you have 300 thousand pixels. I assume that you want more than b/w but even with that, with no gray, we are talking 300k bits. Won't make it on a 56k line. And then we need audio... it will never happen. If we cut the image in half, we have a quarter of the pixels... so we still have 75k pixels at 320 x 240.

    You would need some fancy lossy compresion for it to look tv quality and still get through in time...
  • Although the closed settop box is a concept that is wasted on a home PC builder like myself, this project is more exciting to me than others if just for the fact that Nokia is involved. I've come to like their products, both for computer monitors and their portable phones. Alas, so far I've found one thing lacking, namely Linux support.

    Initially, I wasn't real pleased to have to carry a phone around but I really fell in love with my 6110. It goes a long way towards a PDA with its built in SMS email, faxing, calendar, calculator and even some games. You can also hack [] it for some fun. Anyhow, I never figured portable phones for a geek thing, but it's been fun to play with.

    Then a problem had to come up. One feature of the phone that appealed to me is the ability to link it with a PC or a laptop through cable or infrared link and then use the phone as a modem. But the modem function is software, and of course that software (Nokia Data Suite) is only available for Windows. It also costs an arm and a leg, which I don't care to invest in a legacy platform.

    So I realise this is my mistake for not investigating the purchase closely enough and figuring the infrared function would be a normal IRDA compliant device and the modem would be hardware. I guess I should've bought a 8110 or an Ericsson instead. Still it leaves me wondering if there are other 61xx owners that use Linux and are bugged by this. Any software modem projects underway perhaps?

  • A program or channel is truly good, and not hyped up advertised good, when you're willing to set aside web browsing to watch it. Occasionally , even something on a non-PBS channel meets this criteria. The amount of junk in TV land is so overwhelming that you might just be turned off it.
  • by Shads ( 4567 )
    I'm really looking forward to seeing more stuff like this... we have the internet... Only big problems with stuff like this is the latency and badwidth issues. I just need a oc48 or so to my house... =(
  • This sounds suspiciously like WebTV renamed - "integrated television and internet". You can get TV cards for PCs anyway! I don't think this is anything new, just more marketing hype.

    (when is someone going to make a set top box based on FreeBSD, huh?)


  • Cool, it says that they are going to use the mozilla browser in addition to using linux. Does anyone from the mozilla project know more about this?
  • Its worth reading the article in depth. The solution that Intel and Nokia are pushing on appears to be a settop box that will bring in Digital Video bitstreams, while decoding data brought in over the digital signal.

    i.e. In the U.S., with HiDef signals coming soon, you can insert data into the signal, and extract it at the customer end and show it to users.

    This shouldn't be confused with delivering something like Digital Video over the internet. Its a fine line, and the article doesn't seem clear about that difference. I would guess that any true 'internet browser' in the box, would still have to use some existing land line for regular browsing. (For more information check out, and search for ATSC)


    P.S. Having worked in the broadcast industry, let me tell you that if they do expect to deliver 'web like content' over DVB, they'll still have to get stations equiped with the right equipment, which also takes a lot of time.
  • You make a very good point about the difference in states of mind a person is in when watching TV vs. using a computer, be it for gaming, surfing, serious work, or whatever.

    However, I think your conclusion is wrong.

    When I want to watch DVD (on a laptop in an airplane, or on my TV), I use my computer's DVD player to do so. When I want to listen to music (perhaps when I'm reading, or just vegging) I use my computer to play random songs from a rather large collection of MP3's (all legally copied from my own, purchased collection, of course).

    The most serious drawback I see to settop boxes right now is the horrible resolution of today's televisions. Replace them with an HDTV set, or a large flastscreen monitor with good resolution, and that problem goes away. At that point, combining the two appliances (computer and tv) into one makes a great deal of sense.

    Add to that the desirability to click on an icon to watch you're favorite TV show "on-demand" (rather than remembering to tape it or making sure to be at home at such and such a time), and you have the potential for a very, very appealing product. Of course, for this to succeed, they need:

    - much more bandwidth, capable of delivering on-demand video and audio
    - much higher resolution TVs or monitors
    - a stronger emphesis on open "internet-like" standards, rather than closed and copy-protected "consumer electronic" standards such as DVD
    - competitive pricing for hardware, net access, and video-on-demand offerings. (Downloading a movie shouldn't cost more than renting it at the store, for example.)

    I would argue a "pay-per-view TV shows sans commercials" option would be, while not a requirement, the kind of "killer feature" that would attract many potential customers. I'd willingly pay $3.00 an episode to watch my favorite TV show without commercial interruptions. For shows I'm less fond of (or not interested in taping for my own archive) I'd be willing to watch the commercial in exchange for a free viewing.

    I do think computers will "combine" (or replace) most consumer home entertainment electronics. Attempts at crippling the home entertainment product's capabilities (remember DAT?) will only accelerate this trend. Which side the "set-top" boxes find themselves on will go along way toward determining whether they represent a unique step forward, or an obscure curiosity ignored by consumers in favor of other, more capable products (like a PC with a DVD drive, a big hard disk, and a long S-Video cable :-))
  • is that like.. a porn version of Tron? ;-)

    best $19.95 I'll ever spend.. :o)
  • Let's hope that Nokia will start contributing to Mozilla development in a big way. It might actually happen, set-tob-boxes are embedded things, and stability *really* matters at that market. Due to their size and complexity, building a browser that never crashes is pretty much impossible, unless of cource you have a huge army of nerds working on stabilty.

    Read more at The Register [], CNet [].

  • by Gavin Scott ( 15916 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @08:00AM (#1620367)

    "What's on television then?"

    "Looks like a penguin."
  • by CokeBear ( 16811 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @07:48AM (#1620368) Journal
    Sorry to burst your bubble Intel, but you just don't get it.

    When people sit down in front of thier TV, they want to turn their brain *off*. When you use a computer, you have to use your brain, and *do* stuff... you have to think.

    On the surface, TV and Internet might seem similar, but because they require entirely different mindsets to use, they will never be effectively combined.

    Think about where you sit to watch TV... on your couch (usually) about 6 feet from the screen. Your computer is usually on a desk, in an office environment (even at home, its probably the same desk where you did your taxes before you got a computer). For years companies have been trying to cash in on this market that doesn't exist. Note the failure of WebTV (granted: there were other reasons that bombed).

    *Turning my brain off now*

    CokeBear, UWO
  • Yeah, yeah. Great stuff. If only we hadn't heard it all a thousand times before...
    Okay, no more cynicism. I sorta believe it this time, for one reason; they're talking about rollout in the second half of 2000. That's less than a year away, and I doubt they'd make such a forecast unless things were well and truly underway.
    Of course, it does say it'll use mozilla; so that date may get pushed back a bit.
  • Absolutly, as other said too this is neither new nor does it make much sense. Internet, as we know it today is more like a book if you compare the method of perception (sp?). I mean it's mostly reading and thinking. But many all are working heavily to change this.

    We have to face it, the big bad corporations want to turn the internet in a big bad 24x7 transcontinental shopping channel for information and goods. They will succeed in one way or another, but only for the people who don't know or want better (the majority).This is the driving force for ideas like that, intel and nokia (and a pile of others) want to join indirectly, these two try to control the technical side.

    Linux and mozilla gives them the the ability to leave out a third player which otherwise would control the technical software infrastructure.
    OTOH - I don't remember mozillas license for such causes, but shouldn't we expect netscape i.e. AOL joining the gang?

    I think the most important aspect is that this is really a bad change for microsoft's strategy.
    Two global players openly demonstrate a relativly big future vision which clearly would lock microsoft out off a field where microsoft OTOH is aggressivly heading.
  • You can get TV cards for PCs anyway! I don't think this is anything new, just more marketing hype.

    Got a friend that did just that, though his win98 box is used for DVD with a wireless keyboard. Too bad there is not DVD support under linux.

    He even has a really nice thin black case to match the rest of his entertainment center a/v components.

  • by Forward The Light Br ( 21092 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @07:28AM (#1620373)
    If they actually leverage the power of Linux well, this could be very cool;

    everyone reading this remembers the Coke machine in MIT that had its own IP, yes?

    Imagine setting up your TV to automatically record the news IF AND ONLY IF you are not already at home...

    Imagine being able to steal ALL the HBO movies into mpg files... (this would prob require some programming, but hey, thats why we are (most of us) CS majors

    Imagine, sitting 100 miles away and checking the channel that your kids are watching...

    The ultimate user-configured Vchip is inherent, and before all the 12-14 year olds on this board demoderate me, keep in mind that this IS a useful feature for the public at large

    it will allow for EFFECTIVE programable functions (ie all those record-this-show-every-week)

    and the best part of all this is, you do not inherently need to use those annoying on-TV menus, but can ssh (telnet) in or use some networked GUI app to do all this...

    Since this is all opensource (alledgedly) we can probably work around any of the safe-guards they create to prevent mass copying, commercial exclusion, etc.
    We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars --Oscar Wilde
  • PixStream [] has really cool equipment for MPEG2 video over IP. If you're lucky enough to live in New Brunswick or any of a handful of places with telcos using PixStream gear you can watch full quality video over your xDSL or similar link.
  • Internet TV would make instant TV ratings
  • Any software modem projects underway perhaps?

    Check out the Gnokii [] project.

    They're working on drivers to Nokia phones for Linux and BSD.



  • MPEG-2 is fancy compression. :-)

    Actually, a full broadcast-quality MPEG-2 video stream is only 4Mbps. You actually don't even need broadband spectrum to do full-quality TV delivery if you're OK with the idea of having your "tuner" live in the network back at the head-end/CO/etc. Some of the xDSL guys are starting to realize this (Newbridge and others showed this at N+I.) The only downside is a slightly longer than normal delay when switching channels, but then people with DSS boxes have already been conditioned to think this is normal.

    Note that this means even wireless can be a real competitor to cable and especially telco copper in the future. A 6 Mbps LMDS derivative or Wideband CDMA could easily provide enough pipe to deliver a movie at full MPEG-2 resolution (even without VBR), a half dozen phone/voice/control connections, and still leave more than a T-1 available for surfing the net.

    There's really very little you can do in the foreseeable future that would require more bandwidth than that, and 6Mbps bidirectional may well prove to offer a customer experience superior to a lopsided cable-like system with choked down upstream bandwidth. In the end, latency and bandwidth availability are more important than bandwidth per se. The ability to provide high bandwidth availability through a switched infrastructure is the only thing that keeps me from writing off the RBOCs entirely - now if they can just figure out how to pay for the switch upgrades as a regulated utility...

    In short, a good set-top can provide serious TV quality in a reasonable amount of bandwidth. It's not going to happen with a 56K modem, though. (Has anyone ever gotten a 56K connection with one of those things? I never have...)
  • than their press release server, since I can't read the story. Must be running NT.
  • I think if you review your Information Theory 101 notes you'll realize there are some serious limits to this. Better wait for broadband. *commercial plug mode on* There IS a company that HAS TV, POTS, and data service over VDSL today - Next Level Communications, a subsidiary of General Instrument, who is soon to be bought by Motorola. US West is deploying the service now. *commercial plug mode off*
  • Start Open Source TV.

    You know, get a decent web cam that is close to broadcast television quality.

    Get a decent AV computer, that lets you do streaming video in addition to live stuff.

    Get a fat pipe.

    Start your own TV station.

    Take requests from audience members interactively.

    Maybe charge $19.95 a month for a special members only channel.

    Oops, I just described 90% of the pron sites.

  • I can't be the only one. I work for a hi-tech company, I love gadgetry, I'm entranced by the latest "thing", but I simply don't watch television. When I do use the TV, it's for movies. I don't even know what channels I receive.

    Spending my entire day in front of one monitor merely to go home to another (in lower res at that :) doesn't gel with me.

    Maybe TV is a dying medium. Once you've been exposed to the stimulus of interactive content - of actual people responding to your assertions and replying with their own - sitting in front of a glowing CRT that feeds you laugh tracks just can't kick the endorphins back to their former highs.

    Set-tops are betting on the addiction of people to their televisions. The manufacturers fancy that Joe Smith, who watches the typical eight hours a day, can be eased into a new dependency, this time on their "content" services like chat and news. But isn't that sort of thing anathema to Joe Smith's entire way of life? If he wanted stimulation, he could find it in a book or in a bar. He doesn't want it. He wants to be deadened for a few hours before bedtime.

    Wake up.
    Go to work.
    Come home.
    Go to sleep.

    Why would he allow thought and stress, both of which are prevalent on the internet, to encroach upon his mental down time?

    OTOH, I could be wrong. Could be that with their combination of flair and verbal communication, set-tops will spark a slow return to literacy and a new appreciation for personal expression. That would be an excellent thing, although I'm a little dubious at this point.

    We'll see.

  • I have been waiting for this to come out so that i can more easily create a commercial zapper program. It would be similar to Adzapper, for all of you that have used that, but essentially it would play something else on TV while the commercials were playing, and then switch back to the normal program when the commercials were over. Thus avoiding those brain-washing commercials totally. I now the only problem is finding a way into the internals of their device. maybe they could leave me a telnet port open or something :) that would be nice, but then i suppose that i could more easily steal cable also.

  • This is not an origional concept. At all.

    Every major communications company has been working on something like this for years. One of the major problems being the infrastructure to support it. That's one of the reasons you might not have heard about it. Lack of infrastructre to install the box doesn't mean you can't have the box working in the lab waiting for the day when the bandwidth is available.

    Why do you think Motorola bought General Instruments? The company states that "Motorola has a Global Commitment to broadband multimedia/communications solutions." Which is true.

    Only only advantage is that Nokia might have the communications connections to actually sell the thing. Then again GI has a install base of over 15 million.

    Intel and Nokia now see how much money they'll be missing in the upcoming broadband revolution and want a piece. This is also why Sony is selling the Playstation2 as a "home gateway" unit.

    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
    "It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • Sorry, this got posted by mistake during editing.
    Ignore this one and read the other "take a number" which was posted by me.
    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
    "It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • by Capt Dan ( 70955 ) on Tuesday October 12, 1999 @07:40AM (#1620386) Homepage
    This is not an origional concept. At all.

    "By taking the lead and creating products that..."

    Excuse me, but no.

    Every major communications company has been working on something like this for years. One of the major problems being the infrastructure to support it. That's one of the reasons you might not have heard about it. Lack of infrastructre to install the box doesn't mean you can't have the box working in the lab waiting for the day when the bandwidth is available.

    Why do you think Motorola bought General Instruments? The company states that "Motorola has a Global Commitment to broadband multimedia/communications solutions." Which is true.

    Only only advantage to the deal is that Nokia might have the communications connections to actually sell the thing. Then again GI has a install base of over 15 million.

    Intel and Nokia now see how much money they'll be missing in the upcoming broadband revolution and want a piece. This is also why Sony is selling the Playstation2 as a "home gateway" unit.

    They aren't taking the lead, they're already behind.

    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
    "It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • by Rabbins ( 70965 )
    Isn't a lot of this being done by TiVo?

  • If you're looking for the future of TV, wait until they are able to squeeze TV-quality video and audio (full screen) down a 56k line. Or else wait until everyone has broadband When they are able to achieve either one of these cases, accompanied by a set-top box, not only will everyone be able to surf the net from a TV, but they will also be able to watch every single television channel in the world, no longer hampered by local tv regulations, over-the-air and cable size limitations.

    that is what i look forward to.
  • > I mean it's mostly reading and thinking.

    Thinking? On the Internet?

    No way, this will be huge. Think about how many people have talked about putting their car or fridge on the Web ... Jini and the like and the idea that if it has a digital pulse, we'll network it someday. Then think about the fact that there are already hundreds of millions of set-top-box/TV combos out there. Which non-computer devices do you think will really be the first ones to go en masse onto the Web?

    Besides, this isn't about getting people a way to cheaply look at their cousin's Web page, it's about marketing and that's IT. That's what pays for it, because it will be dirt cheap to the consumer, if not free. A lot of people don't "explore" the Web. They'll get on there and buy from the stores that Intel/Nokia/partners push at them and get their stock quotes, plan their retirement, do their banking the same way. They won't be able to live without it after a while. How will I do my banking or order my groceries without it? A huge market, too. For every American on the Web right now there's one that isn't. Those people really want this, because they're scared and confused by all the billboards and they hate it when people ask for their email address and they don't have one. They're ready to online shop. I mean, online shopping is pretty good, but doesn't it sound a whole lot better when you don't have a clue what it is? All those ads Intel shows where the Web looks like the Metaverse or something (if you have a PIII, I guess) can't be hurting, either.
  • As usual, I am seeing the negative downside to this type of project. Anytime corporations do anything,

    I notice they didn't explain what they meant by interactive content. I imagine this as watching Monday Night Football and being able to pull up stats on the players of the teams playing, etc. Well, hopefully it would go beyond that.

    Anyway, I think corporations view this as just an e-commerce vehicle. Think about're sitting there on your couch, you see a commecial for the product of the week, and on your screen you see a window that says "push button x on your remote to purchase". The company you purchase this "interactive service" from already has your credit card number and address, similar to setting up one-click purchasing on Think about it: THIS IS THE ULTIMATE IMPUSLE BUYING SYSTEM! YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR COUCH TO WASTE YOUR MONEY! I'm sure marketers at corporations around the globe are sitting there in their little Dilbert style work cubes having orgasms just thinking about this. Same goes for credit card company executives as well.

    I hope I'm wrong about this, but this country is built on greed and materialism, so this seems like the natural progression of this product.
  • Unfortunately the idea of using a network of set-top boxes as a distributed computing platform has been Microsoft. I can't recall the patent number but it should be findable on the various patent sites.

    The idea of course isn't new (but when did that
    stop anybody getting a patent :( ). Rudy Rucker had quite a reasonable explanation of it in The Hacker and the Ants but I guess patent examiners don't read such books.
  • In Ireland, Internet on tap from a TV is already well under way as part of the Irish National broadcaster's [] move to the European Digital Standard (this tech won't work with the HDTV standard due to the limititions of that approach). It's called Wireless Interactive Network for Digital Services (WINDS). Here's a New Scientist [] report. By using spare channels in a heavily mulitplexed system and small transmitter in a set top box talking to the local broadcast antennae, TVs will have an ayschronous internet connection. While you can use it to "Web TV" normal programming you can also use it as a "regular" IP connection, with upload speeds somewhat faster than a 56K modem and download speeds like that of low end DSL. So if you're anywhere in Ireland and you have a digital TV (or a digital phone) - you'll be wired with high speed Internet access.

  • This article talked nothing about delivering TV channels via the Internet. Can you imagine the bandwidth that would take? Cable systems have at most the bandwidth to carry 100-200 traditional channels. At least 100 of these would be taken up with traditional channels. The rest are available for services such as voice over IP and broadband Internet. Remember that broadband cable Internet works by assigning a group of households a cable channel to communicate over so share the bandwidth that a channel provides. What this means is that there is nowhere near the bandwidth available for TV on demand which would require an entire channel per viewer. For TV on demand to work there would have to be the bandwidth of an equivalent of 5,000 channels available (assuming 5% of a city of 100,000 want to watch on demand TV). Cable will never have this kind of bandwidth.
  • This begs the question - will the Internet become part of the television industry like some companies seem to be banking on? I've noticed that a number of companies such as Microsoft with their Web-TV concept, and now Nokia and Intel seem to feel it is a possibility. Personally I think that in the short run browsing the net via television will be popular. People used to their TV and not computers will find it especially easy. However in the long run I think that the opposite is more likely - your computer and the Internet will become the medium of delivery.

    What do you think?

  • Good point.

    Ever notice how so many end-users go into "Dummy Mode" when the get near the computer?

    Whenver they're away from the computer they may be really intelligent but as soon as they get near the comp. *bang* Dummy.

    That's fine for television, but very bad for computers.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel