Ubuntu Linux developers will develop a mobile version of their Debian-based Linux operating system in collaboration with Intel, in order to extend the open-source software's development to handheld internet-enabled devices.

Linux developers at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, held this week in Seville, will discuss details of the Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded project, announced on Saturday.

Intel plans a low-power processor and chipset architecture designed to allow full internet capability on mobile devices, according to a statement published on the Ubuntu website.

The move to offer a mobile and embedded version comes on the heels of a similar project that Intel is supporting: the GMAE (Gnome Mobile & Embedded Initiative), announced 19 April at the Embedded Linux Conference in Santa Clara, California. The initiative is open to developers, manufacturers and others interested in developing mobile device applications based on Gnome-based open-source components.

The Ubuntu Developer Summit is being organised by Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu. South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth initiated the project to create Ubuntu, based on Debian GNU/Linux, and founded Canonical in 2004. Canonical offers usage and basic support of the operating system for free, and additional services on commercial terms.

Overall, Ubuntu Linux appears to be gaining traction among users. Last week, Dell announced plans to preload Ubuntu Linux on its upcoming Linux desktop PCs and laptops. The company said the decision came in response to a customer feedback program that registered high interest in Ubuntu Linux.

Canonical will provide Dell with support services.

The free, open-source operating system runs on notebook and desktop computers as well as thin clients and servers.

Challenges facing developers of the mobile edition include the design of innovative graphic interfaces and power management capabilities, according to the Ubuntu website posting.

The mobile edition is slated for release in October, together with the new Ubuntu 7.10 version.

Although the use of Linux in smartphones is still comparatively low, accounting for only around 6 percent of the market for smartphone operating systems in 2006, demand for open source will increase as more handset makers move away from older proprietary phone operating systems, Nick Spencer, an analyst with Canalys.com, said in an earlier interview. Spencer expects demand to be strong in Asia, particularly in China.