- By Bruce Tober -
Pre-installation of Linux is hardly ubiquitous in Scandinavia, but a couple of companies are seeing it becoming increasingly popular on servers and in the business sector. And unlike in the United States, where some companies say there isn't a desktop market for Linux, SOT Finnish Software Engineering is shipping its brand of Linux on about half the desktop PCs it sells, and another company is shipping Linux on more than 20%.
Erno Rasanen, marketing director for SOT Finnish Software Engineering Ltd., says his company is negotiating with a number of Scandinavian PC and server
assemblers to pre-install its SOT Linux 2002 distribution. SOT also
makes boxes -- mostly servers but some desktop workstations as well.
Although unable tell what manufacturers the
company is talking with, he notes there's great interest from several companies, one of which is already pre-installing another distribution.
"A few of them have already gotten confirmation from their assembly
lines that they can start producing Linux-installed PCs," he says.
"They've done checks from production side and everything looks good from
there." He hopes to see some contracts signed in time for Q4
And what of his own company's machines? "Our own hardware team ships
quite a lot of PCs with SOT Linux pre-installed, the ratio is quite
near 50/50." Pressed for specific numbers, he says, "I would say that we
sell about 1,000 to 2,000 desktop systems per year and 50% of them
are equipped with Linux. It may be explained by fact that we have lots
of technical university students as customers, and everyone can agree
that they are early adopters of Linux."
As for manufacturers already pre-installing SOT, he notes that Compaq
(or HP nowadays) prefers SOT Linux 2002 Server on
highly available (HA) server clusters in Finland. "Naturally these HA
clusters are typically tailor-made to meet requirements of
customers needs, but Compaq and us are promoting together ready-to-utilize Linux HA clusters," he says.
Over at HP, there's increasing demand especially from
government organizations for pre-installed desktop machines and
servers, says Eva Beck, the Europe, Middle East and Africa alliance manager for Intel and Linux at what was Compaq (now the "new" HP). But she couldn't, or wouldn't, provide any specific numbers.
"Linux is and will be on focus for us in the future -- and we are working
jointly with partners to even widen our Linux offerings," Beck says. "In my opinion it is not about promoting, but really 'living,' a strategy for Linux."
Beck adds that SOT is an important partner for HP in the Nordic
Rasanen says the trend to pre-install Linux began about one and a half to two years ago.
"However," he adds, "I have feeling that manufacturers are not shipping
lot of Linux pre-installed systems. But based on what I have seen during
past few months, I would say absolutely, yes, it's very much increasing!
More and more hardware manufacturers are interested in shipping desktops
and servers pre-installed with Linux. However, they necessarily do not
ship lot of them, because quite many system admins prefer to install
their own favorite version of it and do the tweaking."
The pre-installations, in Sweden, at least, are mostly
on servers, rather than workstations, according to Jacob Sandin, manager
of Sverige.Net, an ISP in
southern Sweden. His company delivers some remotely managed servers for firewalling and email.
But former New Yorker Eric Speijer,
founder of Tricom Data AB, in
Stockholm and Uppsala, doesn't agree.
Speijer's company helps small and medium enterprises, schools
and universities find IT solutions, and Tricom Data installs servers and sells
hardware. The company makes its own line of PCs called the Everest series.
Tricom sells about 50 to 100 per week and, of those, almost all that go to
the universities are pre-loaded with Linux, as are about 20 to 30%
overall, he says.
"Universities need to be assured of security, that's a major reason for
their choosing Linux," he says. "Our Linux boxes are also a favorite among students
and academics generally." Speijer says all the Everest boxes are tested
for Linux compatibility, and his company pre-installs Red Hat, SuSE, Debian, and
SOT (formerly BestLinux).
Sandin says the only companies he can knows that are providing pre-
installation of Linux in Sweden are IBM and Dell "and even there it is mostly for
servers, not for workstations. And for servers, I think it is mostly
servers that you manage for the customers either on consulting basis or
by remote control."
Sandin, while disagreeing with Beck that there's a growing trend toward
pre-installation, does agree that "interest for Linux has been growing a
lot the last couple of years, and you can't say you know computers if you
do not know at least a bit about Linux. [I] might compare it to how it was
with Novell Netware two years back, except Linux is getting more
Sandin says of Linux: "It's new and exciting and also it is not Microsoft." He promotes the idea of moving to Linux "by pointing out the obvious freedom in
what can be done and that you are not bound to any developer and their
idea about what you should be able to do. Also it is often very much
faster and you can use less expensive hardware to do the same things as
Win NT or 2000."
The trend toward Linux, Speijer says, began in Sweden about five years ago.
"It was all academic purchasers then. We're trying to develop Linux
systems now for all customers. We're using it to get a better handle on
the business market. And that's happening. It's growing, but very
slowly. Unfortunately Microsoft has such a grip on the business
community, trying to foster another package is difficult."