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ARM to fuel netbook, internet gadget drive with Ubuntu

Canonical to port its Linux to ARMv7

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Chip maker ARM is to get Ubuntu Linux up and running on its ARMv7 processor architcture, part of its plan to get its chips into netbooks and handheld internet devices.

It's all about taking the fight to Intel's Atom, of course. The chip giant's processor has become the de facto standard for small, cheap computers. But the handheld tablet side of the story - the MID - has yet to take off, providing ARM with an opportunity to tout its platform's superior power efficiency.

That's not to say ARM doesn't want a shot at the netbook arena too. However, while Linux helped kick off the SCC market, Windows XP has swept in with a vengeance and the signs suggest it'll dominate the netbook market. Unless ARM can persuade Microsoft to port XP over to ARM, it's going to be only ever able to win over a portion of the netbook market. For a netbook maker looking to keep costs down, it's hard to see ARM's offering proving more attractive than Atom and off-the-shelf x86 tech.

Handhelds, however, are different. Here XP will prove less appealing, not least because Microsoft will be keener to push Windows Mobile than its old desktop OS. More to the point, MIDs don't need a desktop-style OS, so the the underlying operating system becomes less important than the UI. That favours Linux and Ubuntu in particular since developer Canonical has been working on both netbook and MID UIs that can sit on top of its core OS.

Canonical will port Ubuntu to ARMv7 for Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 CPUs, and it'll bring over the full Ubuntu desktop OS. It will work with individual companies to tailor its Linux to their devices, which is how software development tends to be done in the ARM world

Expect Ubuntu ARM to become avialable in April 2009, the partners said.

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