It was just two days ago that Canonical announced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show unveiled their latest attempt to extend Ubuntu beyond the server room and desktop.
Canonical’s ambitious projects is none other than Ubuntu TV, their first foray into the realm of providing software for media consumption on HDTVs.
Unlike companies, which have released actual hardware, such as Logitech’s Google TV-powered Revue or the new Roku USB stick, Canonical has only announced that Ubuntu TV will be an additional software layer that sits on top of their Unity desktop environment that hardware partners could use to build their own set-top box.
This announcement surprised me a little, I almost felt like this was expected since Ubuntu’s aim with adopting Unity was to move into the mobile space, and HDTV was only naturally the next step.
Although the interface of Ubuntu TV is clearly based around Unity it’s interesting that it sort of takes cues from Netflix’s interface of navigating horizontally through different movie covers which should make users of Netflix feel at home with Ubuntu TV.
The inclusion of a TV Guide does make me wonder if there is some sort of plug-in functionality to add additional channels as deals are negotiated for rights to stream channels, such as the BBC.
For the adventurous amongst you the Ubuntu TV interface is already available for download via the Ubuntu Software Centre after adding the appropriate repository.
I haven’t had the chance to install Ubuntu TV quite yet, but if my experience with the initial release of Unity was anything to go by you can expect that Ubuntu TV’s interface will be buggy, but useable. Until major bugs are fixed I doubt I will see myself putting XBMC aside to enjoy watching videos on my home theatre PC.
I am curious, however, as to whether Ubuntu TV will make a greater impact on the set-top box market than Google TV or even the Apple TV.
Although the Apple TV has been viewed by Apple, and particularly the late Steve Jobs, as a hobby it hasn’t exactly taken off in terms of consumer adoption nor has it really revolutionized the way people consume or purchase TV content.
On the other hand Google TV, which is one of the main competitors to the Apple TV, failed to gain traction with their initial offerings in the form of Logitech’s Revue which suffered from poor sales, high returns and the lack quality cable TV content which is due more to Google’s failure to secure content from media companies than anything on the part of Logitech.
It will be interesting to see whether Ubuntu TV will be able to do what both Apple and Google haven’t and become the center set-top box in the living room.
Canonical will want to hurry though as Apple has been rumoured to have something in the pipeline for HDTVs and Google can’t be that far behind, having learned from their mistakes with the first set of Google TV devices.