Essentially, all major computer retail stores will carry computers with Ubuntu pre-installed by the end of 2008 or early 2009, predicted a Canonical manager who met with The VAR Guy at OSCON. But this isn't another Linux desktop PC story. In this case, the computers are Netbooks (also known as sub-notebooks). Here's the scoop.

At least two "multinational corporations" (translation: Big PC or consumer electronics companies) have agreed to preinstall Ubuntu Netbook Remix edition on forthcoming sub-notebook devices, according to Gerry Carr, a Canonical marketing manager.

In a bold prediction, Carr said Netbooks running Ubuntu would be available in all major U.S. computer retail stores by late 2008 or early 2009. He called the Netbook's arrival a "rare opportunity for Linux" to succeed as a pre-installed operating system on retail hardware.

What's A Netbook?

Netbooks, similar in concept to the Asus Eee PC, are portable computers that are smaller than traditional laptops. "Asus has really created this market," conceded Carr. "In developed markets [like the U.S. and Europe], the Netbook will be your secondary PC; it's the one you bring to Starbucks or to a convention like this to use to surf the web or do some quick work. It will have a 60- to 90-minute use case."

In emerging markets, however, the Netbook could emerge as a low-cost primary computer, said Carr. He expects the devices to cost about $300 to $500 each. Carr declined to mention any Netbook manufacturers by name, but speculation continues that Dell plans to sell an Ubuntu-based Netbook.

Ubuntu Netbooks could represent a turning point of sorts for Linux in retail stores. Wal-Mart carried Linux-based computers in its stores during the 2007 holiday season, but later discontinued the in-store sales experiment.

More recently, Best Buy has agreed to sell Ubuntu Linux -- but that effort only involves the software rather than a hardware pre-install.