To keep up with the growing popularity of the recent wave of low-cost, flash drive-equipped, wireless, small form factor "netbook" computers, Ubuntu Linux this week announced its own specially modified Linux operating system that can run on the machines.
Called Ubuntu Linux Remix, the new operating system will be targeted to OEM vendors that are building their own netbooks for sale to consumers, said Gerry Carr, marketing manager for Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu around the globe. Ubuntu Linux Remix is built to be compatible with Intel's new Atom processors, which are miniaturized, low-power CPUs that can be used in smaller netbook chassis, Carr said.
Netbooks equipped with Intel Atom CPUs and Ubuntu Linux Remix are expected to be on retailer's shelves in the next six months, he said, at prices estimated between US$300 to $500.
Unlike its other consumer desktop and enterprise Linux versions, Ubuntu will not offer free downloads of the Remix version and will only offer it to prospective netbook vendors for their use, Carr said.
The new classification of netbook computers provides users with a smaller laptop they can take anywhere, but without all of the features of a standard laptop machine.
The netbooks enable users to go online wirelessly, send and receive e-mail, chat on instant messaging clients and more, while using a device packaged in a small, energy-efficient form. As such, netbooks are slotted in the marketplace as secondary computers for use when traveling, vacationing or whenever a full-sized, fully-featured laptop isn't needed.
Canonical is working to ensure that other popular desktop applications are certified for use on Remix to give users choices in software they can run on the machines.
A key difference with the Remix from the standard desktop Ubuntu Linux is the inclusion of a "launcher" that allows users to start the machines and get online more quickly, Carr said. "There are also lots of tweaks for the Intel Atom chips, and optimization, too, for the flash drive (in lieu of a disk-based spinning hard drive) and for other underlying technologies. Probably the major difference ... is that this is very much a device-tied OS" aimed specifically at netbook architectures.
Netbook machines are already on the market from other vendors, including Asustek Computer. Last month, Asustek launched its latest US$549 Eee PC 900 machines in Windows and Linux versions.
Asustek will also use new Intel Atom chips in some of its upcoming Eee PC machines.
The Ubuntu Linux Remix version may be just the start of a procession of new vendors to join the netbook arena, Carr said. "If the market's successful, I think there will be other players in it," he said.