Ubuntu To Enter Tablet Market

Apple's iPad was hardly the first tablet to appear on the scene, but it is unquestionably responsible for the recent spike in tablet development. Now it looks as if Ubuntu — the Linux distro everybody loves to hate, but uses anyway — will be entering the field as well.

Canonical — the sponsor-company of Ubuntu and a number of other projects — revealed last week that development on a tablet version of Ubuntu is underway, which will be merged with its existing netbook edition to form Ubuntu Light. An existing version with that designation will presumably be renamed, integrated, or dropped altogether.

Canonical OEM Vice President Chris Kenyon said the company considers tablets "a really exciting space right now and we're really bullish on it", and could enter the market as early as the beginning of next year. At the same time, he made clear that tablets are as far as they intend to go — responding to the suggestion of a potential smartphone OS, he described that market as a "crowded space with a lot of powerful players".

Unlike Ubuntu — which though available pre-installed from some vendors, is primarily a user-installed distribution — it appears the tablet version will be developed with manufacturers in mind. According to Kenyon, Canonical has already inked deals with chipmakers Texas Instruments, Freescale, and Marvell, and is actively working with other manufacturers.

The initial version of Ubuntu Light — which will compete in the Linux space with power players like Google's Android — will be based on Ubuntu 10.10, due to be released in October. In addition to focusing on speed and power consumption, the OS will feature a streamlined UI optimized for touch-screen use.

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