Time ripe for a Linux console?

I was watching my son the other day on our XBOX 360 that’s tucked nicely in our cabinet under the TV with our DVD player, digital cable box, and receiver. He was playing Halo 3, which looks great on our LCD HDTV, BTW. He’d break out once in a while and go back to the Dashboard and send a text message to a buddy then go back into the game and use the headset connected to his controller to talk about his school day with another buddy he was shooting at. It’s incredible how far consoles have come from the old Atari boxes we had when we were kids. Now they’re these multi-processing entertainment centers and communication devices that hook our kids up to the rest of the world.

It’s also interesting how he’s migrated away from our PC over to the XBOX. That could be because our PC is getting old and the 360 is actually a more powerful machine. But, still there are still things you can’t do on it. That would probably be solved if it had a web browser built into it. But for some reason, and correct me if I’m wrong on this, there doesn’t seem to be a web browser available for the 360. Weird. Too bad this is a closed platform that makes it really hard to get open source software, like the Webkit browser engine, ported to it.

So that got me thinking in the context of Linux. Why isn’t there a Linux console? Linux is slowly getting better for the desktop and it’s about to break out huge in the mobile space, wouldn’t it also work well in a box I can put under my TV and use with a wireless keyboard, or game controller with a headset, or with the controllers we have for Guitar Hero and Rock Band? I don’t see why not.

Googling the idea, you see the GP2X WIZ handheld I’ve blogged about in the past, and the sad story that was Indrema that rose with the hype of Linux in 2000 and crashed with the market realities of 2001. And yeah, Linux probably wasn’t ready in 2000. But nothing seems to be happening now.

And I’m sure there are economic roadblocks to making it happen. The companies in this industry are huge and are still selling the boxes for less than it costs to build them. Having an open platform makes it pretty difficult to collect the license fees that subsidize the hardware and platform development costs. You’d need a big player with big friends, similar to one of the Linux handheld alliances, to even think of making this happen.

But if it works for handhelds, why not on the TV. At least there it would have a bigger screen…