Among the people Google's partnering with to build Chrome OS, there's now a very familiar name: Canonical, the folks behind Ubuntu. In their words: "Canonical is contributing engineering to Google under contract" (for Chrome OS).
That doesn't mean Chrome OS and Ubuntu are going to become interchangeable, though:
While the two operating systems share some core components, Google Chrome OS will provide a very different experience to Ubuntu. Ubuntu will continue to be a general purpose OS running both web and native applications such as OpenOffice and will not require specialised hardware. [*]
That squares pretty solidly with what people have come to expect of both Ubuntu and Chrome OS (even though the latter has barely appeared). Ubuntu's a general-usage system; both regular folks and the technically-experienced can sit down and make good use of it. Chrome, however, has been designed to provide a very specific -- one might even say closed-ended -- set of experiences.
So what would Canonical/Ubuntu have to provide to such a project? My guess is they'd be offering expertise and code with regard to portions of the desktop experience that were mentioned as being a future part of the Chrome OS experience, but which haven't been built yet. Printing, for instance; that's one feature which was asked about in the press conference last Thursday, and which Google confirmed would be something you could do with a Chrome OS device.
In theory, Google could just grab any old Linux code to do these things. But from the way Canonical talks about this partnership, Google's clearly interested in more than just a respin of what's under Ubuntu's hood. They want good minds, too, like the folks on Canonical's design team. And one great mind is better than any hundred thousand lines of code.
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