Set-top-boxes (STBs) that deliver and capture television content have exploded in popularity in recent years with some reports forecasting 58 million units and projected revenues of $6.2 billion by 2014 sold into the IPTV segment alone. As this market both grows and matures, Linux is replacing proprietary products as the operating system of choice for many of these boxes.
This is consistent with the entire consumer electronics industry where companies have been rapidly adopting Linux to reduce software development costs, speed time to market and focus on unique differentiation and innovation.
This rapid adoption, though, comes with new challenges in understanding the licensing compliance implications for vendors throughout the supply chain. Altech UEC, a provider of digital technology for STBs based in South Africa, faced these challenges head-on by engaging with The Linux Foundation to learn more about open source software compliance as well as how to engage with the open source community.
“Not only did we need to better understand how to comply with third-party open source software, we wanted to better understand how to engage with the open source community to maximize it for our products,” said Steve Comfort, a systems engineer at Altech UEC. “We knew that open source software could also help us innovate but management didn’t start listening until Android and MeeGo made it clear that the rules of the game were changing.” Altech UEC expects that this investment will pay off in the long run, due to a combination of the increased productivity that FOSS offers and greater customer satisfaction derived from open source ecosystems such as Android and MeeGo.
The Linux Foundation’s Open Compliance Program helps companies understand how to work and excel in today’s mixed world of proprietary and open source software. In the case of Altech UEC, 20 engineers came together with The Linux Foundation to organize a software process to achieve compliance. And, eight executives met with The Linux Foundation’s Director of Open Compliance to better understand the importance of open source software and how to engage with the community.
Comfort says that the company’s primary stakeholders today are completely aware of what is needed to comply with open source software and to make it a strategic technology for competing in today’s market.
Engineers are also now empowered to explore FOSS and incorporate it in products, which Comfort says could even result in a boost in salary given their newfound expertise. “Today, thanks to The Linux Foundation we have a very clear idea of how to identify and comply with existing open source software from suppliers and what we need to do to participate in Linux and the community,” says Comfort. “We have a plan in place and processes defined to ensure confidence in our products and our ability to innovate into the future.”