Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, continues to reach out to hardware partners. Specifically, Canonical says it has updated its Hardware Certification Program for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and ODMs (original design manufacturers). The big question: Can Canonical attract more hardware partners to Ubuntu? Here are some clues from The VAR Guy.

First, some background. Chris Kenyon, VP of OEM Services and Alliances at Canonical, essentially serves as the company's channel chief. Kenyon is approachable and on-message when our resident blogger speaks with him.

According to Canonical, the hardware certification program now has three components:
  • 'Ubuntu Certified' allows manufacturers to submit systems to be certified to Canonical's testing facility, where certification testing and validation is performed by Canonical engineers.
  • 'Ubuntu Ready' (formerly 'Ubuntu Compatible') allows manufacturers to self-test using a checkbox test suite, and submit results to Canonical for validation.
  • 'Ubuntu Compatible Component' is a new service whereby a component internal to a system has been validated as Ubuntu Certified by Canonical.
Canonical offers up a validated hardware listing and a hardware and OEM Partner certification portal to help partners and customers track down Ubuntu-compatible systems.

As of this blog entry, Acer and IBM are the only two OEMs that Canonical lists as recently validated hardware makers. The VAR Guy is checking in with Ubuntu system makers like Dell, System76 and ZaReason to see if they intend to embrace the new hardware OEM program. (In fact, there are signs that Dell plans to ship Ubuntu 10.04 systems in mid-2010.)

Moreover, our resident blogger is keeping a close eye on OEMs that may plan to develop Ubuntu-centric tablet computers and mobile Internet devices.

Hardware Challenges

Canonical had serious hardware momentum around 2008, when many North America PC makers were testing or deploying Ubuntu with their netbooks. But since that time, Microsoft has largely won back the North American netbook market with both Windows XP and Windows 7. And more recently, Novell has unveiled SUSE MeeGo for Netbooks -- which could put additional competitive pressure on Ubuntu.

On the server, Sun Microsystems had been a reasonably good Ubuntu partner but it's unclear how that relationship is shaping up now that Oracle owns Sun. Also, HP made some nominal Ubuntu server moves in 2009 but The VAR Guy hasn't seen heard much HP-Ubuntu chatter in recent months.

Canonical's most promising relationships seem to be in the cloud, where companies like Dell have vowed to support Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud.

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