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New Ubuntu Remix Opens Fast-Track OS for MIDs

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The consumer market has been going ga-ga for Linux-powered ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs) such as the much-balleyhooed Asus Eee PC and (soon) offerings from HP, Acer, and (maybe) Dell. And ga-ga they should. These are (or will be) sweet machines. Joining the UMPCs (also known as netbooks) are the mobile Internet devices (MIDs). These are even cooler devices because, while the Netbooks have been announced with Linux and Windows XP versions, thus far the MIDs will all run exclusively Linux.

Intel, with their new Atom processor, is leading the MID charge, encouraging OEMs like "Lenovo, Toshiba, Panasonic, and LG Electronics" to get their own MIDs to market using Atom and Linux.

Which Linux is always the question, of course. Today over in Taiwan, Canonical used the Computex event as the stage to announce its Ubuntu Netbook Remix, an OEM-targeted flavor of Ubuntu Mobile Edition that's pretty much ready to go for any MID that wants it.

The Netbook Remix is not a full-fledged version of *buntu like Kubuntu or Xubuntu. It is a remastered version of UME that features a new custom Launcher screen based on GNOME where MID users can start to use the tools that come with the OS. According to Product Manager Pete Goodall, the slimmed-down remix will have the standard set of tools, like the browser, IM, and e-mail clients that users come to expect from such devices. Apps like OpenOffice.org will also be included.

What interested me about this announcement was the fact that usually Canonical's pretty happy to announce an existing partnership with a vendor that's about to use this product. According to the press announcement, and my conversation with Goodall and Gerry Carr, Marketing Manager, a number of OEM deals are being made, but none of those OEMs are ready to announce... yet.

One reason why Canonical may feel good about spreading the word early about this new Remix is the nature of the product itself. This Remix, Goodall explained, is "only for OEMs looking for a quick route to market." OEMs who need something very customized can work with the Ubuntu Mobile Edition, but if the hardware vendor is using a basic set of Atom-based tools and hardware, the Netbook Remix can just be slipped right inside with a minimum of fuss.

Another peculiarity is that this is really the first *buntu product that isn't available for direct download. It's made especially for OEMs, Carr explained, so there really isn't a complete ISO to download. For those ├╝ber-geeks who really want to get the code, Carr told me that the Remix will be available through the Personal Package Archives for Ubuntu.

Carr indicated that other reasons for the timing of this announcement was to coincide with Intel's big push for Atom out at Computex, as well as the huge amount of interest for MIDs from end-users. He also added that he doesn't  think the first Netbook Remix-MID announcements are too far off and that we should see the first Remix-loaded MIDs around the Fall of 2008.

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