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Ubuntu offers Remix, a lighter Linux for mobile users

The slimmed-down OS is based on Ubuntu Desktop Edition but built for smaller 'netbook' computers

By Todd R. Weiss
June 3, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - To keep up with the growing popularity of the recent wave of small, low-cost, flash-drive-equipped, wireless "netbook" computers, Ubuntu Linux today announced a specially modified version of the Linux operating designed to run on such machines.

Called Ubuntu Linux Remix, the new operating system will be aimed at hardware manufacturers that are building netbooks for the consumer market, said Gerry Carr, marketing manager for Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu around the globe. Ubuntu Linux Remix is built to be compatible with Intel Corp.'s new Atom processors, which are miniaturized, low-power CPUs that can be used in smaller netbook chassis, Carr said.

Netbooks equipped with Intel Atom CPUs and Ubuntu Linux Remix are expected to be on retailer's shelves within six months, he said, at prices estimated at $300 to $500.

Unlike other consumer desktop and enterprise versions of Ubuntu Linux, Remix will be available as a free download, but the company says it most appropriate for developers and prospective netbook vendors, Carr said.

A newly identified classification of PC, netbook computers are small, ultraportable laptops that don't have all of the features of standard laptop machines.

Typically small and energy-efficient, Netbooks offer wireless Internet connectivity and enable users to do things like send and receive e-mail and chat on instant messaging clients. Netbooks are slotted in the marketplace as secondary computers that people can use when they're traveling or whenever they don't need a full-size, full-featured laptop.

Canonical is working to ensure that various popular desktop applications are certified for use on Remix to give users an array of choices of software to run on the machines.

A key difference with the Remix from the standard desktop Ubuntu Linux is the inclusion of a "launcher" that allows users to start the machines and get online quickly, Carr said. "There are also lots of tweaks for the Intel Atom chips, and optimization, too, for the flash drive [rather than disk-based spinning hard drives] and for other underlying technologies. Probably the major difference ... is that this is very much a device-tied OS" aimed specifically at netbook architectures.

Vendors such as Asustek Computer Inc. are already offering netbook machines. Last month, Asustek launched new $549 Eee PC 900 machines that come in Windows and Linux versions.

Asustek will also use new Intel Atom chips in some of its upcoming Eee PC machines.

The arrival of the Linux Remix version of Ubuntu may mark the start of a procession of new offerings entering the netbook arena, Carr said. "If the market's successful, I think there will be other players in it," he said.

Correction: This story has been changed since it was first posted to say that Remix will be available for free download, although it is most appropriate for developers and prospective netbook vendors. Due to incorrect information provided to Computerworld, the story originally said Remix would not be available for a free download.

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