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Ubuntu’s commercial sponsor Canonical revealed late yesterday that it has been working with Google on its Chrome OS platform since before Mountain View announced its game-changing plans in July this year.

The firm’s OEM veep Chris Kenyon said in a blog post on Thursday that “Canonical is contributing engineering to Google under contract”. His comments came following Google’s announcement that it would open source the Chrome OS.

He didn’t reveal financial terms of the deal, and was at pains to insist that Chrome OS wouldn’t invade Ubuntu’s turf.

“While the two operating systems share some core components, Google Chrome OS will provide a very different experience to Ubuntu,” he said. “Ubuntu will continue to be a general purpose OS running both web and native applications such as OpenOffice and will not require specialised hardware.”

Chrome OS on the other hand will be specifically designed for a hand-picked selection of web-obsessed x86- and (eventually) ARM-based netbooks created by Google’s hardware partners that include big name computer makers such as Hewlett Packard, Asus, Acer, Lenovo.

Dell, which is good at getting its knickers in a twist about Ubuntu being a Microsoft operating system, is notably absent from the list.

Kenyon said Canonical had a cosy get-together with some Google wonks in the past few days at its Ubuntu Developer Summit in Dallas. All of which hints at just how closely tied the two outfits have been on the development of Chrome OS.

“In our discussions, Sundar Pichai and Linus Upson made it clear that they want, wherever feasible, to build on existing components and tools from the open source community without unnecessary re-invention. This clear focus should benefit a wide variety of existing projects and we welcome it,” he said.

And anyway, Canonical has already made its intentions clear that with the release of its desktop Linux platform Ubuntu 9.10, its sights are set on Microsoft and its Windows 7 operating system. ®

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