Speaking at the Consumer Video Design Technical Program of the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose on Thursday, Chris Perret of Wind River announced that his company is offering several set top box software modules as open source code, in an effort to move the set top box industry away from the current chaos of processors, operating systems and middleware that makes the integration of each new box design a start-from-scratch project.
Wind River has extensive experience in this field. Their professional services division has been charged with system integration for over fifty set top box designs, including the original DirecTV satellite box, and Disney's MovieBeam.
"One of the single biggest failures of all set top box designs is remembering there's hardware underneath it all," Perret said. Rather than beginning work with code fragments from silicon vendors that are not optimized but merely demonstrate that the chip works, and then trying to integrate the processor with middleware, Wind River is proposing a "Stability Test Platform" consisting of software modules.
While encouraging other companies to start contributing to this open source movement, Wind River has created its first set of modules for Linux, VxWorks, and a Windows simulation environment, which Perret said represented a 5 man-years of work.
"We're going to put this out in the open source community, and see if it catches on," Perret said. While silicon vendors and middleware providers may have little incentive to adopt open source, he said, the owners of the networks -- the cable-TV and satellite-TV companies -- have an interest in standardization, he said. And though Wind River may get paid on many projects for time and materials, he said, they also have incentive to standardize the process and prevent last-minute mishaps that can delay a set top box because it's impossible to verify that it will all work together properly until just before manufacturing is about to begin. "We get paid to guarantee a market window," Perret said. "For us, this is a risk reduction move."
Perret's paper on this topic will be published here on Video/Imaging DesignLine in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, post your thoughts at: