March 24, 2004

HP to preload Linux globally? Yes and No

Author: Joe Barr

The good news is that it now appears that a major tier-one OEM will start selling business desktops and laptops with Linux pre-installed to North American customers later this year. The bad news is that it won't be an option for everyone, only for large customers. And it won't be available at all until the second-half of the year.

Similar stories in the past suggesting Linux preloads by a tier-one OEM like HP or IBM have always proved false. We reviewed the HP D220 last year thinking it came with Linux preloaded. It didn't. Just last week there were reports that HP was selling TurboLinux pre-installed to Asian customers. That was not so. The week before that there were reports HP was selling business systems with Mandrake preloaded. They weren't. In both cases, HP provided Linux on CDs for the customer to install.

So forgive us for doubting the joint press release from Novell and HP this morning. We double-checked it with our HP PR contact to make sure we were getting the story straight. He told us in no uncertain terms:

Pre-install is available as an option globally, including US customers. Product specs will be made public closer to product availability dates -- 2nd half of 2004. The initial focus will be on large enterprise customer with purchases of 1,000 or more PCs.

So you still can't walk into BestBuy or CompUSA and buy an HP or IBM desktop or laptop preloaded with Linux. But if you are a large firm purchasing a thousand or more PCs, HP will install it for you. It's a step in the right direction.

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