If Canonical has its way, Ubuntu may soon be powering computers like the one in your car. At least, that's what the release of Ubuntu Core, a new image of Ubuntu aimed at embedded devices, suggests. Here's the scoop.

Ubuntu Core, as its name implies, constitutes a very bare-bones Ubuntu system. It's a minimalist version of Ubuntu that provides the most basic software around which developers can build a larger system to suit their needs.

Weighing in at only about 100 MB, and fewer than 35 MB compressed, the Ubuntu Core image is indeed lightweight. Since apt is among the approximately 100 packages that are built into it, however, additional applications can be easily downloaded and installed just as they are on any other Ubuntu system.

The first official release of Ubuntu Core is slated for this October, when the next version of Ubuntu, 11.10, debuts. For now, daily development builds of the Ubuntu Core image are available from Ubuntu's website.

Ubuntu In Your Car

There are plenty of conceivable roles for Ubuntu Core to play beyond embedded devices -- as its page on the Ubuntu Wiki points out, it could prove useful for creating custom builds of Ubuntu designed to showcase particular applications, for example.

But for now, Canonical seems to be pushing it above all as a solution for embedded systems. In the company's own words:
Ubuntu Core is a sub-set of Ubuntu technologies ideally suited for the next generation of embedded devices where Internet connectivity is key. It takes advantage of the extensive hardware, architecture and component certification work done by Canonical so manufacturers can build great experiences for non-PC-based technologies such as set-top boxes, in-vehicle infotainment systems and digital devices for the home.
Canonical employee Victor Palau also recently wrote a blog post introducing Ubuntu Core and highlighting its utility for device developers interested in getting a Linux software stack running on their hardware.

This addition of yet another flavor to the Ubuntu family thus underlines Canonical's commitment to the small-device market, even as it also continues to invest heavily in desktops, servers and the cloud.

It's not yet clear what that will mean in concrete terms or which devices we might actually see shipping with Ubuntu Core, but Canonical's current partners in the endeavor include Pelagicore, AllGo Embedded Systems, Mobica and CodeThink. These companies are involved in development for an array of different embedded devices, ranging from automotive entertainment systems to digital picture frames. Don't be surprised, then, to find Ubuntu powering your car -- or, at least, its stereo.