Ubuntu to run on ARM-based netbooks

Canonical and the chip designer are to collaborate on a version of Ubuntu tailored to ARM's architecture, with a focus on low-cost subnotebooks.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor
Canonical has announced it will be developing 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 would 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 would create netbook-specific distributions of Ubuntu.

"The release of a full Ubuntu desktop distribution supporting latest ARM technology will enable rapid growth, with internet-everywhere, connected, ultraportable devices," ARM's vice president of marketing, Ian Drew, said in a statement. "Working with Canonical will pave the way for the development of new features and innovations to all connected platforms."

Drew told ZDNet UK on Thursday that the collaboration between ARM and Canonical would 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 would 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, optimized 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".

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