Internet TVs are all the rage these days and that trend is set to continue well into 2012. This year, we'll see a host of web-ready idiot boxes from Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba and -- if rumours are to be believed -- even Apple.
Many more are expected to join the fray, including UK firm Canonical's Ubuntu TV offering, which looks likely to make its debut later this year.
Ubuntu TV will provide all the requisite features you'd expect to find in an Internet-enabled television. It works as a DVR, recording whatever nonsense you happen to be watching, features apps such as YouTube and iPlayer and has a movie, TV and music store that lets you rent and purchase content on a whim.
Ubuntu TV will also have access to Ubuntu One -- Ubuntu's cloud storage system, which allows you to upload and access all your personal photos and documents via the Internet. Currently this allows users to sync up to 5GB of data to the cloud for free, or for $3.99 (£2.60) per month, to store and stream up to 20GB of data.
The Ubuntu TV user interface has been tailored specifically for a big-screen, "10-foot" user experience, so it should be fairly easy to access all its advanced features with a remote control. Aesthetically, it's still very familiar to Ubuntu users as it's based on Unity -- the desktop OS' default desktop environment.
As with the desktop OS, Ubuntu TV's biggest strength is the fact it's free, but we don't expect it'll be plain sailing for the new kid on the smart TV block. It's unlikely to appear in any of the sexier TV brands, as each of those manufacturers has its own smart TV software, for which they charge a premium. Even the second-tier brands may turn their noses up in favour of smart TV gubbins from the likes of Google.
Perhaps Ubuntu's best bet is to approach lesser known manufacturers -- the quirky Chinese electronics firms that fill your local supermarkets with cheap TVs -- in an effort to strike a partnership. Assuming it pens a deal, it'll then have its work cut out trying to convince content providers -- the Netflixes of this world -- to supply content for its fledgling service.
Despite the difficulties ahead of it, Canonical has high hopes we'll see the first Ubuntu TVs shipping by the end of 2012. Promisingly, the video below features UK TV channels and the iPlayer icon on the left. Let us know what you think of the concept, and whether you think it'll ever happen, on our Facebook page.