The End of Consumer Electronics As We Know It?

The Linux operating-system movement appeared to have taken a leap forward last week with the announcement of Indrema, a new consumer-electronics company specializing in open-source digital products for home entertainment. Using the Linux operating system, enhanced by a set of open-source multimedia standards such as the Direct Rendering Infrastructure, the new OpenStream video architecture, and Mesa 3D compatible graphics components, Indrema says it plans to "turn the consumer-electronics industry on its head."

Linux is a free, Unix-like open-source operating system that is being developed by a loosely knit team of programmers working from all over the world. Linux is said to work on almost every kind of computer in existence, and is intended to provide a robust platform for a wide variety of applications. Unlike most operating systems, Linux is free in almost all respects; users can download it off the Internet at no charge, pass on copies to friends, and even modify its internals. According to, "this 'freeness' has been one of the most critical reasons for its success, and is turning heads in the industry and mainstream media."

By leveraging an open-source operating system such as Linux, Indrema intends to open up third-party development opportunities in the personal TV and game-console markets for home entertainment. Indrema's John T. Gildred explains that "up to this point software developers for game consoles had to marry to a proprietary platform where evolution is dictated by one company. Now entertainment-software vendors can embrace an open platform where the system software is freely distributed and the graphics subsystem is upgradeable.

"Indrema will release a distribution of the Linux operating system specifically designed for TV and HDTV applications. We are working with the open-source community to develop the missing pieces of the Linux platform to enable DVD-quality video support and next-generation 3D graphics performance. The days of the black box are over."

Indrema says it is currently working on the production of the L600, their first entertainment console, based on Linux and OpenStream, an open-source, video architecture for Linux developed by Indrema, Precision Insight, and other members of the open-source community. The company claims that the system will offer the new Gecko web browser, next-generation 3D game performance, MP3 storage and playback, personal TV, HDTV support, and Internet video channels that integrate with the Personal TV system for "near-DVD-quality" electronic video distribution over the Internet.

According to Indrema, the system uses an enhanced version of the x86 PC architecture, "optimized for high-performance graphics on TV." Storage of video, MP3, and games is said to be made possible with its internal hard drive, and the company states that additional games and audio can be purchased and downloaded into the Indrema console over the Internet. Indrema adds that the L600 is expected to ship in time for the 2000 holiday season.