Intel's Atom netbook chip will have to scrap harder in future with the announcement by Canonical that it plans to port a version of Ubuntu Linux to run on ARM's small-computer chips.

Scheduled for release in April 2009, the company said a version of its software would support ARM's v7 platform, specifically the Cortex-A8 and A9 chips designed specifically to meet the low power and processing needs of netbooks.

Although the fact that ARM has wanted its designs to be used inside netbooks <a href=" "> has been known </a> for some time, having a popular Linux distribution such as Ubuntu will come as a huge boost to its credibility.
Canonical, too, had promised to support such devices, which look set to take an unexpectedly large share of the portable computer market, probably by hurting sales of conventional laptops running on Intel hardware.

The news means not only will prospective netbook users have a new version of Linux to look forward to for such devices, but they will be able to run it on hardware other than that available from established netbook hardware vendors, Intel and Via.

"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 of ARM.

"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," echoed Canonical COO, Jane Silber.

ARM's chip designs, manufactured under license, are used inside many smartphones, most famously Apple's iPhone, so few doubt that it can make good on its claims of low power consumption relative to processor performance. Indeed, the UK outfit has been designing such chips for longer than Intel.

In part, the latest announcement is a reaction to the way Intel has <a href=""> moved aggressively </a> into territory that had hitherto been the domain of ARM. It looks as if Intel will not find the netbook business as easy to dominate as it has with other non-core segments.