Ubuntu unveils custom OS for mobile Internet devices

The operating system is expected to debut on handhelds by the end of the year

Ubuntu Linux Tuesday released the first developer's version of its new Ubuntu Mobile Internet Device (MID) Edition 8.04 operating system, which is aimed at device manufacturers building Internet-ready handheld devices based on Intel's Atom processors.

Based on Ubuntu's Desktop Edition operating system, the MID Edition 8.04 was developed by the Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded community, in cooperation with the Intel Moblin.org community, according to Ubuntu.

Some applications from the desktop version have been modified to fit on MID screens and to work better with touchscreens, according to the company. MID also includes a specially designed MID browser based on Gecko, Mozilla's rendering engine, including zoom capabilities to make it easier to read information on a small screen. MID also contains applications for e-mail, calendaring, document reading, contacts and a media player.

Gerry Carr, marketing manager for Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu around the globe, said the new version of Ubuntu Linux is designed to work with new generations of handheld, portable, Internet devices through such features as touchscreen controls.

The MID edition is Ubuntu's first developer's release aimed at this market, Carr said. The MID edition is not for use with mobile phones. MID devices are similar to handheld devices, but they feature full Internet access, Carr said. The MID version has been available to developers in pre-release development for the past year.

The product is available now for free download but is aimed at developers and OEM equipment manufacturers at this point, he said.

"We are expecting a derivative of Ubuntu MID to be shipping on devices by the end of the year," Carr said, though no final deals could be announced.

The new Ubuntu MID version is built to work in a wide range of new devices based on the Intel Atom chip.

Earlier this month Ubuntu announced the release of another customized version of its operating system, Ubuntu Linux Remix. Remix is a specially modified version of the Linux operating system designed to run on the new generation of small, low-cost, power-efficient, flash-drive-equipped, wireless "netbook" computers being built by several vendors.

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Todd R. Weiss

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