February 22, 2001

New Tuxtops seller not worried about Linux laptop competition

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -
QLITech, which is taking over the recently defunct Tuxtops Linux laptop line, isn't worried about the big boys in the laptop business, says Ray Sanders, QLI's president.

QLITech, a 10-employee private company based in Moline, Ill., announced today (Feb. 22) it was acquiring Tuxtops' line of Linux-loaded laptops after Tuxtops suspended laptop sales earlier this year. Tuxtops President Graham Hine said then that competition from companies such as IBM and Dell loading Linux on laptops helped drive his company out of the laptop sales business.

But Sanders said the 2-year-old QLITech, which also sells small office/home office Linux packages, inexpensive servers, and Linux PCs optimized for gaming, said he believes QLI can establish a market niche for Tuxtops' laptops as bigger companies test the Linux waters.

"Anybody can take a box, toss Linux on it and start selling Linux boxes," he said. "Everybody's playing both sides of the fence now, now that Linux has gotten some serious credibility. They want to see how this whole antitrust suit comes out because they want to be prepared. But that's all they're doing, they're putting their foot in the water and seeing if it's warm or cold, they're not really committing."

QLI isn't buying Tuxtops, which is transitioning into a yet-undisclosed software venture. The deal allows QLI to exclusively sell the former Tuxtops line.

Tuxtops' Hine said QLI's diverse product line should allow the company to better compete with the big boys, especially in the small business and individual buyer markets, where companies like Dell and IBM aren't focused. "We were focused entirely on selling Linux laptops, and QLI is a company that sells all lines of Linux computers," he said. "There are a lot of people who are looking for computers for their company, and those folks now can go to QLI and get everything dealt with."

Small companies such as QLI might not be able to crack the big corporate market, Hine said, but for an individual buyer or small company who "just want a good reliable system at a reasonable price ... QLI should be able to compete very well with the big guys."

In addition to selling the renamed Tuxtops laptop line, QLI will take over support for the Tuxtops laptops previously sold.

The support part of the deal is important for customers, Hine said, and he's comfortable with QLI's reputation for supporting customers. "We were happy to continue to do that, and we wanted to make sure our commitment to our customers didn't get dropped, but if we're going to be focusing on a software project, we may not be the best people to be doing laptop support."

The deal happened because the two companies have had a long-standing relationship, with QLITech referring customers to Tuxtops' laptops. QLI had originally been interested in selling laptops, Sanders said, but didn't want to compete in the Linux laptop niche.

"When we heard that Tuxtops was getting out, I called up Graham, and basically, the rest is history," Sanders said. "I said, 'hey, Graham, let's work something out so that this market doesn't dry up.' "

Hine said he's happy that QLI has shown interest in selling Tuxtops' line. "We put a lot into the laptop business," he said. "The decision to drop the laptop line was a hard one to come by, because we had quite a bit of commitment to do that. We always had it in our mind that hopefully, somebody else could pick that line of business up or find some other way to do it."

The price range for the three QLI latop models will be $2,049 to $2,629. They will be sold under the QLI, not the Tuxtops, brand.

Tuxtops' software project is still under wraps as the team develops the backbone for it, Hine said. "There's been some speculation ... none of it's quite right."

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