Linux developers are looking to extend Ubuntu, one of the most popular of open-source distributions, to handheld Internet-enabled devices.

Developers meeting at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, currently meeting in Seville,will discuss details of the new Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded project.

Ubuntu programmers will develop a mobile version of the Debian-based Linux operating system in collaboration with Intel, which plans a new low-power processor and chipset architecture designed to allow full Internet capability on mobile devices, according to a statement published on the Ubuntu website.

The move to offer a mobile and embedded version comes on the heels of a similar project that Intel is supporting: the Gnome Mobile & Embedded Initiative (GMAE), announced 19 April at the Embedded Linux Conference in Santa Clara, California. The initiative is open to developers, manufacturers and others interested in developing mobile device applications based on Gnome-based open-source components.

The summit is being organised by Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu. South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth initiated the project to create Ubuntu, based on Debian GNU/Linux, and founded Canonical in 2004. Canonical offers usage and basic support of the operating system for free, and additional services on commercial terms.

Overall, Ubuntu Linux appears to be gaining traction among users. Last week, Dell announced plans to pre-load Ubuntu on its forthcoming Linux PCs.

The mobile edition is pencilled in for release in October, together with the new Ubuntu 7.10 version.

Although the use of Linux in smartphones is still comparatively low, accounting for only around 6 percent of the market for smartphone operating systems in 2006, demand for open source will increase as more handset makers move away from older proprietary phone operating systems, Nick Spencer, an analyst with Canalys.