Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ubuntu Chief: OEMs Turning to Us for Netbook OS - The Chart - IT Channel News And Views by CRN and VARBusiness

Mark Shuttleworth, who runs Ubuntu's distribution arm Canonical, says top PC makers are turning to him to help build out the next generation Internet notebook devices, or "netbooks."

In a Monday item on his blog, Shuttleworth provides more detail about the effort, what the technology aims to do, and how it aims to do it.

"The Canonical OEM team has been approached by a number of OEM's who want to sell netbooks (small, low-cost laptops with an emphasis on the web) based on Ubuntu," Shuttleworth writes. "Almost universally, they've asked for standard Ubuntu packages and updates, with an app launcher that's more suited to new users and has the feeling of a 'device' more than a PC."

Shuttleworth's piece also provides screen shots of some of the software that is at the center of this activity, and is worth reading on its own. But what's also worth considering is what Shuttleworth doesn't mention: Why are OEMs turning to Ubuntu, while at the same time there's a decided lack of buzz about anyone turning to Microsoft?

It's actually a big deal. For example, Dell CEO Michael Dell has been carrying around an early version of a Dell mini-notebook, and referring to it as the device for the next billion Internet users. (Dell, of course, began a relationship with Canonical and Ubuntu last year when it began shipping PCs with Ubuntu pre-loaded. However, no information is out yet on what would run on the Dell mini.) Asus has become an industry rock star by using GNU Linux to power its Eee PC. HP's niche Mini note runs SLED 10 Linux. The iPhone, of course, doesn't run Microsoft software.

Is anyone paying attention in Redmond?

Adds Shuttleworth: "The aim was to do something very simple that could be tested easily, work with touch devices and made shippable very quickly. It also needed to be efficient on lower-power devices, and work well with Intel hardware, which seems to be the preferred platform for this generation of devices and allows us to slip a few nice effects in that would be hard without the right hardware support."

Even though Dell has yet to put out anything that can compete with the iPhone, Michael Dell told me last year without any hesitation that "people want to bring the Internet with them." OEMs and Ubuntu and the Open Source community seem to be on the same page about this. Keep your eyes and ears ready for Microsoft's response.

The Chart - IT Channel News And Views by CRN and VARBusiness

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