Novell throws support behind Moblin Linux for Intel Atom netbooks, devices

But Novel will add SUSE Linux code to Moblin

Eschewing its own SUSE Linux, Novell Inc. said today that it will back Intel Corp.'s Moblin Linux in the fast-growing market for netbooks and smartphones.

Novell is creating a version of Moblin for netbooks that it will help market to PC manufacturers through a new design lab in Taiwan, where most netbooks are made.

The deal is somewhat of a surprise. Novell has had moderate success getting PC makers to install SUSE Linux. Lenovo Group Ltd., MSI Computer Corp. Hewlett-Packard Co. and First International Computer Inc. all have netbook models shipping with SUSE Linux.

Meanwhile, Moblin, despite Intel's imprimatur, has yet to be installed on any popular netbooks. Most netbooks have Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP operating system installed. Meanwhile, the hype favors Google Inc.'s Linux-based Android operating system on netbooks and devices running the ARM processor, and Windows 7 for x86 processors.

Novell hopes that will change with Moblin 2.0, which is in alpha testing and "pretty close" to going into beta, according to Guy Lunardi, director of client preloads for Novell.

Novell began assigning its Linux developers to work on Moblin several months ago, Lunardi said.

Novell is also injecting Moblin with code from SUSE, Lunardi said. That decision will allow Moblin to enjoy the best of both worlds -- the software ecosystem of a longstanding desktop Linux distribution, and the mobile features demanded in the smartphone/netbook era, such as 10-second startups and sub-5 second wake-ups from sleep mode that will match Google's Android, Lunardi claimed.

Intel transferred control of the open-source Moblin to the Linux Foundation last month. That opened the door for developers to steer Moblin's development toward support for the ARM processor that's popular on smartphones and which competes with Intel's Atom.

However, Lunardi said Novell will focus only on optimizing Moblin for Atom and other x86 chips, not ARM.

"We are very committed to the x86 architecture. We really believe that the industry doesn't need a plethora of infrastructures," he said.

Novell had previously said it would not port SUSE to ARM. Competitors such as Canonical, maker of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, and Xandros Inc., whose version of Linux was used in the original Asus Eee netbook, have already made ports to the ARM platform.

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Eric Lai

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