Sources at Canonical tell me that Canonical's Ubuntu developers have been working with Google's Chrome team since before Google announced its netbook operating system plan in July 2009. The company decided to go public with its involvement after Google announced today that they were open-sourcing the Chrome operating system.
In a Canonical blog posting, Chris Kenyon, Canonical's VP of OEM Services, revealed that "Canonical is contributing engineering to Google under contract." Canonical insiders were not at liberty to say how many developers were working on Chrome, but they did say it was a major project.
This does not mean that Canonical is focusing on Chrome OS in place of Ubuntu. Kenyon wrote: "On the consumer side, people will ask about the positioning of Chrome OS and Ubuntu. 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 specialized hardware."
When reading between the lines, it's clear that Canonical and Google are very closely partnered on creating Chrome. Any open-source developer, however, can now access the code and documentation at the newly opened Chromium OS site.
Kenyon also said, "Sundar Pichar [Google VP of Product Management] and Linus Upson [a Google engineering director] made it clear that they want, wherever feasible, to build on existing components and tools from the open source community without unnecessary re-invention. This clear focus should benefit a wide variety of existing projects and we welcome it."
Kenyon concluded, "So 2010 looks set to be a very exciting year. In addition to delivering Ubuntu experiences with both existing and new OEM partners, we will be working with Google on Chrome OS based devices."
Indeed, it should be. Canonical, the company behind the most popular desktop Linux, is working hand-in-glove with Google to create the Chrome netbook operating system.