Canonical will offer a base version of Ubuntu TV, although manufacturers will be free to alter the software to meet their own hardware specifications, allowing them to adjust the OS for their own choices in CPU, memory, screen-size, storage space, input devices and other factors.
When turned on, an Ubuntu TV would offer a searchable channel guide of what could be watched by cable or over the airwaves. The TV could host applications, such as those offering pay-per-view content. The OS could also show user's own video, from the cloud or from a networked computer in the same house. It does not, however, include a browser. Silber expected that users would browse with a handheld device, such as a tablet or a smartphone.
"It looks like Ubuntu. It has the Unity interface," Silber said.
Ubuntu is facing serious competition. Also at CES, Lenovo launched its first smart TV, a unit based on Google's Android OS that can recognize voice commands and work as a karaoke machine. Last week, Google announced that it had partnered with Samsung, LG and Sony to bring the second generation of its Google TV to more devices.
And while Apple has made no formal announcement yet, industry observers are expecting the company to launch an integrated television set as soon as this year, one that could possibly command the market for smart televisions in much the same way its iPods quickly dominated the market for digital music players.
Even with Apple's impending entry, Silber is confident that Canonical can carve out a space for Ubuntu. "Apple is a single solution, and manufacturers and content owners are much more wary now of Apple's walled garden approach. People we talk with are very confident there is a market for non-Apple players, and that the ecosystem needs that neutral platform," Silber said. "And I think Ubuntu is the best fit there."