When I was interviewing Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth a few weeks ago, he threw out a tantalising tidbit:
Will you be coming out with a tailored version of Ubuntu for the ultraportable sector?
MS We're announcing it in the first week of June. It's called the Netbook Remix. We're working with Intel, which produces chips custom-made for this sector.
Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, today announced that it will be demonstrating a reworked desktop image of Ubuntu built specifically for a new category of portable Internet-centric devices – netbooks. These affordable, power-efficient, small screen devices, based on the ground breaking low-power micro-architecture of the Intel Atom processor, and Ubuntu allow consumers to enjoy email, instant messaging, Internet surfing and on-line access to photos, videos or music with an affordable, reliable device.
Ubuntu Netbook Remix is built to provide a superb user experience leveraging Ubuntu's reputation for delivering operating systems that 'just work' in the desktop environment.
The remix is based on the standard Ubuntu Desktop Edition but with a launcher that allows users to get on-line more quickly and have faster access to their favourite applications. Ubuntu Netbook Remix will enable device manufacturers to get to market rapidly with a compelling software solution on netbooks, as they have a standard user interface (UI) that is built on a widely used operating system underpinned by a globally recognised brand. Canonical is also working with ISVs to ensure that popular desktop applications are certified on Ubuntu, and will run on the Ubuntu Netbook Remix.
Canonical is already working with a number of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to deliver the software into the market on devices later in 2008. Demonstration versions will be available at Computex.
Ubuntu Netbook Remix leverages Moblin technologies optimized for the Intel Atom processor. Intel and Canonical are working to create a next generation computing experience across a new category of affordable Internet-centric, portable devices; including Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), netbooks, nettops and embedded devices based on Intel Atom processor technology. Canonical is a founding contributor to Moblin and will continue to work with Intel to ensure the best open source applications become available to users and OEMs through Moblin.
As I've noted a number of times, I think the appearance of the ultraportable platform will provide a huge boost for GNU/Linux among ordinary users, and prove to be a watershed in the history of open source. The combination of ultraportable form factor with Ubuntu's ease-of-use will only magnify that effect. And if the rumours about Dell's new mini Inspiron running Ubuntu (presumably the Netbook Remix) prove correct, we could be witnessing the birth of the ultimate ultraportable.