Actually Nvidia is probably the most compatible with Linux. Someone at HP doesn't know what he is talking about.
I agree, I have used Ubuntu and Fedora with both ATI and NVIDIA graphics cards. NVidia is much more stable although they seem to have worked out the kinks lately for ATI, still; If your looking for compatability, nvidia is your best bet.
Rule #1 Don't buy a laptop made by hp.
Rule #2 Don't buy a laptop made by hp.
Rule #3 Don't buy a laptop made by hp.
I'd also be a bit hesitant in getting a laptop with Nvidia. Nvidia in the past has produced some really great graphics chips that work better with linux than other GPU manufactures, but the recent fiasco and dishonesty from Nvidia. Leaves me looking at other GPU manufactures.
I'll be glad when the day comes when we can build our own laptops. I build and rebuild my own desktops, and would never buy a desktop because it's so much better to build them than to buy them. Laptops are still quite proprietary. Laptops are being designed for people that don't know anything about computers, so when those of us that are well familiar with computers looks for a laptop, they are all disappointing, as they are not designed with good standards.
Because Ipads are proprietary and more expensive.
Also as to the original question of looking for a laptop without any software installed,,,, With what little software is actually put on computers anymore, and with the advertisements that software companies pay them to put on the laptops, you are only looking at about $50.00 in cost of laptop going to software, if that much. So finding a laptop without any software installed to try to save money, is not going to save you much money. And if you do save any money the savings will be less than the cost of the software.
Hp has made some bad laptops and has been the most dishonest about it. Because hp has had so many consumer complaints and law suits, they decided to get out of the personal computer market. There is talk that they might have changed their mind on that.