Ubuntu gets new netbooks boost with chip deal

A helping hand from ARM

A helping hand from ARM

Canonical has announced it is to develop a version of its Ubuntu Linux desktop operating system specifically for ARM's Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processor architectures.

ARM-based processors have traditionally been used in small devices such as mobile phones, but it emerged in October that ARM's technology will soon be used in netbooks, the new breed of small, low-cost notebook PCs.

Thursday's announcement builds on that revelation, as well as on Canonical's announcement in June that it will create netbook-specific distributions of Ubuntu.

ARM's vice president of marketing, Ian Drew, told silicon.com sister site ZDNet UK on Thursday that the collaboration between ARM and Canonical will extend to such elements as drivers and graphics support.

"Effectively, it's about moving [Ubuntu] from one instruction set [x86] to another," he said. "For us, it's really around the internet experience everywhere, and this is part of that."

The netbooks that have gone on sale thus far have carried either Windows or Linux operating systems. Some reports have indicated that Linux-based netbooks have a significantly higher return rate, but Canonical has suggested this is due to a lack of familiarity with Linux on the part of consumers, rather than any inherent inferiority in open-source operating systems.

Canonical's chief operating officer, Jane Silber, highlighted the opportunity that the ARM partnership will give her company in spreading Ubuntu's reach.

"This is a natural development for Ubuntu, driven by the demand from manufacturers for an ARM technology-based version," she said. "Joining the considerable community of free-software developers working on the ARM platform ensures that a fully functional, optimised Ubuntu distribution is available to the ARM ecosystem, providing wider choice for consumers looking for the best operating system for their digital lifestyles."

According to ARM and Canonical, the Ubuntu ARM distribution for desktops and netbooks will "be officially available from April 2009".