I knew there was going to be big Linux netbook news coming out of the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, but I didn't know it was going to be this big. Sources at Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, tell me that Canonical will be announcing new partnerships with Intel, SanDisk, and RealNetworks. To me, the biggest news is that Canonical will be demonstrating the Moblin version of the UNR (Ubuntu Netbook Remix).
This demo is based on the current beta code from Intel. As far as I know, this version won't immediately be available to the public. However, Canonical will also be announcing that they'll develop a UNR based on the full release of Moblin 2. Canonical and Intel sources both say that the full version of Moblin 2 will be out by year's end.
UNR is a slimmed down version of Ubuntu 8.04, that's meant to get the most out of a netbook's limited hardware. Unlike most versions of Ubuntu, this one is meant only for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), rather than users. It's meant to make it easy for them to ship Ubuntu-powered, Intel Atom-based netbooks. Specifically, UNR is designed to work with and Intel Atom processor, 512MBs of RAM and at a 4GB SSD (Solid State Drive) or hard disk.
Ubuntu Netbook Remix manages to fit Firefox, the Thunderbird e-mail client, and OpenOffice.org into small netbooks. It also includes the proprietary Adobe Flash; Adobe Acrobat Reader; and Sun's JVM (Java Virtual Machine). What sets it apart from plain-Jane Linux distros is that it also includes licensed audio and video decoders for MPEG4 (H.263); MP3; Apple's AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) and Windows Media.
What's different about the combination of UNR and Moblin is that in this mix, UNR will be using the Moblin interface by default instead of UNR's Launcher interface. Under the surface of both is the GNOME interface.
Canonical will also be announcing that they'll be releasing a version of UNR, tuned for a new Intel Classmate PC. Unlike previous editions of the Classmate, sources at Intel tell me that the new Classmate will be available for sale in the U.S.
You'll be able to use this new Classmate both as a conventional netbook and as a touch-screen tablet. I'm told that the next edition of Classmate will automatically support both portrait and landscape mode depending on how you have the screen orientated. UNR supports all these features. This system, and the UNR, that goes with it, is expected to be available sooner than Moblin 2.0. I won't be surprised to see it available by September 2009.
In addition, Canonical will be announcing the results of new work with SanDisk. The end result is that Ubuntu will run much faster on SSDs. In particular, you can expect any version of Ubuntu to soon be registering much faster seek speeds on SSDs compared to the same operations on the 5,400 RPM hard drives you find on most netbooks.
Last, but not least, RealNetworks will be announcing the availability of its Real Player or Mobile Devices for Ubuntu. This media player and codec pack will be available immediately to OEMs planning to ship Ubuntu on any machine type. This version of Real Player, however, will not be available for end-users to buy. You'll need to either buy it as part of your netbook software package or be content with the open-source version of Real Player, Helix Player.