ARM and Ubuntu to Join Forces in the Netbook World

Updated on 11 March 2010 by

armubuntu The crossover is finally happening. The smartphone CPU designer is moving into the PC market while the PC CPU designer is moving into the smartphone market. 

ARM are announcing a partnership with one of the best-known names in desktop Linux and are making a very significant move into the world of low-cost, low-power, connected computing with Canonical who will port the full desktop version of their Ubuntu OS to the ARMv7 architecture ready for release in April 2009. 

Press-release and more, below.

We’ve seen brief glimpses of Ubuntu running on the Open Pandora platform (built on the OMAP 3 platform containing an ARMv7-based Cortex A8 Core) recently and as we’ve been expecting from some of the technical data that has been coming out, it runs a lot faster than it might have done on previous generations of ARM cores. Don’t expect multi-tasking heaven but do expect to be able to get a good browsing experience with a few other applications running in the background for an extremely long time on a single battery charge. The last time I spoke to Texas Instruments about the OMAP 3 platform, they were talking about netbooks being able to run full-tilt in the 4W range. That’s half of what you get from even the best netbooks today so we should see some great mobile solutions coming out as a result of this. Throw instant-on into the mix and you get an interesting recipe.

Check out the mention of ‘hybrid’ in the press release. This was something else TI mentioned to me when I spoke to them last month. Imagine your high-end 15" notebook being able to run both Windows Vista and an instant-on tailored Ubuntu system that will allow you to surf the net or watch a video for a 20-hour stretch. The press release doesn’t elaborate on the wording but I’m quite sure that’s what they are hinting at there.

I had a chance to speak with Kerry McGuire, director of Strategic Alliances, OS and Browser Technologies at ARM earlier today and it was clear that this partnership is looking primarily towards long battery life and always-connected netbooks. When I asked about the time-frames though, Kerry said that the ARM port was due in the next Ubuntu release in Spring 2009 which means that we could see devices by the end of 2009. It sounds like a long way away!

Here’s the full press release which is also available on the ARM news pages.

Popular commercially-supported Linux distribution Ubuntu to be available
on low-power ARM SoCs with rich integrated graphics and video subsystems
and a proven track record of low-power design
CAMBRIDGE, UK – Nov. 13, 2008 – ARM [(LSE: ARM); (Nasdaq: ARMH)] and
Canonical Ltd, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu(r), today announced that
it will bring the full Ubuntu Desktop operating system to the ARMv7
processor architecture to address demand from device manufacturers. The
addition of the new operating system will enable new netbooks and hybrid
computers, targeting energy-efficient ARM(r) technology-based SoCs, to
deliver a rich, always-connected, mobile computing experience, without
compromising battery life.
The combination of a commercially supported, optimized Ubuntu
distribution for ARM, together with Canonical’s ability to tailor
solutions to specific ARM technology-based devices and OEM requirements,
ensures that highly-optimized systems can be rapidly deployed into the
fast growing mobile computing market. ARM’s wide partnership with
leading semiconductor and device manufacturers strengthens the mobile
computing software ecosystem and extends the market reach for
Ubuntu-based products.
"The release of a full Ubuntu desktop distribution supporting latest ARM
technology will enable rapid growth, with internet everywhere, connected
ultra portable devices," said Ian Drew, vice president of Marketing,
ARM.  "The always-on experience available with mobile devices is rapidly
expanding to new device categories such as netbooks, laptops and other
internet connected products. Working with Canonical will pave the way
for the development of new features and innovations to all connected
"This is a natural development for Ubuntu, driven by the demand from
manufacturers for an ARM technology-based version," said Jane Silber,
COO of Canonical. "Joining the considerable community of free software
developers working on the ARM platform ensures that a fully-functional,
optimized Ubuntu distribution is available to the ARM ecosystem,
providing wider choice for consumers looking for the best operating
system for their digital lifestyles."
This version of the Ubuntu Desktop operating system will target the
ARMv7 architecture including ARM Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processor-based
systems.  Canonical’s support of a full ARM distribution will strengthen
the ARM Linux ecosystem and widen the opportunity to leverage ARM
technology into fast-growing markets.  This partnership further
highlights both ARM and Canonical’s support for open source initiatives
and leverages contributions from key open source communities including
Linux kernel, Debian, GNOME, and Mozilla communities.  The Ubuntu ARM
distribution for desktops and netbooks will be officially available from
April 2009.

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Falkenad says:

    Such a combination of a low-power design and a capable OS would make for a good MID design, I believe.

  2. Chippy says:

    MID could be a better niche for them unless they can do HUGE battery life 10hrs or more on 3-cell, under 1KG for under $300.
    However, they may be looking at the big ultra-cheap markets in Asia, India and Africa where the processing speed won’t be such an issue.


  3. OlivierSeres says:

    ARM and Ubuntu to Join Forces in the Netbook World …announced in nov.2008. Not much 1,5y later ;-(

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