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Nokia unveils Linux broadband wireless Web system

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Nokia may be a fully paid-up member of Symbian, but the company's multimedia operation seems to be putting its eggs in the Linux basket instead. In the past few days Nokia Multimedia Terminals (set-top boxes et al has been talking about a Linux-based prototype mobile digital TV and cellular convergence product. On the one hand you could think of it as a crock, on the other as a plausible sounding compromise product that could fill the gap nicely until broadband multimedia is being fired at us from all directions via wireless. The MediaScreen uses digital TV broadcast to send out data, and wireless comms for the return signal. Its base OS is Linux, it uses Mozilla as its browser, and in current form it comes in a tablet-type format. It's a pretty obvious variant on the satellite broadcast/DSL approach, given that what's sent from the local machine to the server is usually a lot smaller than what comes in the other direction. That's previously led to systems where data is broadcast from server to client, and a land-line is used in the other direction, but GSM wireless is perfectly viable to perform the latter role, and Nokia's system could conceivably give us broadband wireless Internet well ahead of the deployment of 3G wireless services. And the absolute genius of this implementation is that Digital TV is coming with a momentum all of its own, and digital cellular is here already - all of the infrastructure will be there for whenever it goes live. Nokia Multimedia CTO Helmut Stein is apparently shooting for the big time with this combo. It'll work in the home in a combination GSM phone, set-top box and home control system (people don't want more wires in the home), but it'll work in the car as well. Obviously, it's going to have to be mains or auto powered (if you've seen reports of this as a Linux-based broadband mobile phone, discount them), but it sounds eminently do-able and compelling. Stein adds that the addition of Bluetooth local comms will make the 'look ma, no wires' picture complete. But why Linux? Nokia's cellular people, and Symbian's sales team, may have screwed-up more than a little here. There are however other developments in the pipeline that make Linux exceedingly plausible in this field - watch this space... ®

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