Babel TV – a set-top box or a Linux PC?

The announcements of ultra-cheap, Linux-based PCs, which I wrote about last week, reminded me of Peter Dawe’s Babel TV, which was launched back in November. This is also based on Linux and combines a computer and Internet access device, running common open source software tools such as OpenOffice, with a video recorder (PVR) and Freeview TV set-top-box.

Dawe is widely respected as a technologist and credited with being one of the founding fathers of mainstream Internet in the UK as he set up Pipex, the UK’s first commercial Internet service provider. During a round-table discussion at the 2005 PACT Content Lab conference in Birmingham Dawe announced that the day was rapidly approaching when a basic PC with Internet access and IPTV facilities could be given away with a box of cornflakes. And he wasn’t joking – he claimed the costs would be recouped either through advertising and sponsorship or providing online services at a cost along the model of mobile phone handsets (which are heavily subsidised by the telecoms networks).

Babel TV is not free (at £295) but there’s a also monthly charge for online back-up storage, so given his comments in Birmingham, one can perhaps see where this might be heading.

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