Canonical hedges against Intel: bringing Ubuntu to ARM


UbuntulogoLate last week, Canonical announced plans to bring their popular Ubuntu desktop experience to ARM-based devices. Considering we just heard about Adobe partnering with ARM for Flash 10 on the low-powered chips, I thought this news was pretty timely. And like the Flash news, the targets for Ubuntu are the ARM Cortex A-8 and A-9 processors.

So what does this mean from a mobile perspective? First, ARM-based devices have the potential to fight back against the Intel Atom onslaught we’ve witnessed over the last six-months. From where I’m sitting there’s a rush to "middle ground" in terms of battery-efficient processing power. Traditionally, ARM devices have tended to be underpowered phones at one extreme, while Intel-based units represent the other end of the spectrum: higher-powered, but not nearly as power-efficient. The end-goal for both sides appears to be smack in the middle: a processor that can provide a solid user experience with support for basic programs, web interaction and rich multi-media playback all the live-long day. What form might that be? It could be a netbook, a web-tablet or a smartphone… who knows where this will all end up. We’ll have a better idea by the next quarter: in the press release focusing on ARM support, Canonical says that their desktop and netbook version of Ubuntu will become available in April of 2009.

Even more interesting is how Canonical is playing both sides of the fence. While they’re planning Ubuntu for ARM chips next year, they’re also a project partner with Intel. Anyone remember the Ubuntu Netbook Remix that’s tied to Intel’s Moblin project?


Ben Lau

For the Moblin project, Intel has already chosen to use Fedora instead of Ubuntu for 2.0 release.

Although Canonical is still developing Ubuntu mobile , it is not working with Intel as close as in the past. That may the result why Canonical works togather with ARM Inc.


I’m intrigued by what sort of device this could be. (If I were the praying type, I’d pray it will have a good keyboard.)

Other things being equal, I’d choose a Windows machine. But if a device like this could really run all day on its batteries I’d happily go with it.


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