The Register, a U.K.-based technology news site, reported Tuesday that the Mountain View, Calif., search engine was developing its own Linux distribution for the desktop using the Ubuntu open-source operating system.
A Google spokeswoman confirmed that the company uses Ubuntu technology, but declined to say what for.
"We utilize the Ubuntu technology for internal use, but have no plans to distribute it outside of the company," the spokeswoman said. She also denied the company was using the name "Goobunto" internally for the software, saying, "It's just an internal system."
Ubuntu, an ancient African word meaning humanity to others, is an open-source project founded by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, who also founded the Shuttleworth Foundation shortly after selling his Internet security company, Thawte, in 2000. The Ubuntu Linux distribution, which is available at no charge, is based on the Debian Linux distribution and the Gnome desktop.
The report led to speculation among bloggers that Google might be readying a desktop OS to take on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows, a scenario many experts consider unlikely.
"If there's any company that can pull off the open-source attack on Microsoft, I think Google is it," said the blog Dymaxion World.
Speculation on Google's plans for the desktop arises each time the company releases more software for Microsoft's home turf, the PC. The latest release, Google Pack, was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev., this month. The suite included Google's mapping software, photo organizer, screensaver, desktop search and toolbar for Internet Explorer, as well as products from third parties, such as Mozilla's Firefox browser.
Some analysts say its unlikely that Google would challenge Microsoft with a competing operating system on the PC, given the latter company's domination of the platform. Instead, Google could be using Ubuntu for developing software products, for its own infrastructure or for Linux research.
"If Google has decided to release a Linux product, then it would make sense to have an internal platform for (software) development," Joe Wilcox, analyst for JupiterResearch, said.
At this point, however, everything is speculation. "Google could be using (Ubuntu) for a lot of different things internally," Wilcox said.