HP Finally Offers Pre-Installed Desktop Linux

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For years, HP has been slowly edging towards releasing a pre-installed Linux for general users. This week, the company finally announced that it would be releasing Novell's SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 SP 2 on its low-priced business class HP Compaq dc5850.

This new desktop offering is aimed at SMB (small-to-medium sized businesses) and education users. Anyone interested in a Linux-powered work desktop, though, will be able to put the SLED-powered dc5850 to use. While HP would sell you desktop Linux on a business PC in the past, it had to be 'ordered.' Now, you'll be able to get it 'off-the-rack.'

The dc5850 is a small form-factor desktop. It comes with a wide variety of AMD processors. These range from the 2.2GHz AMD Sempron LE-1250 processor to the quad-processor 2.3GHz AMD Phenom X4 9600B processor. The system can hold up to 8GBs of RAM, but typically comes with 512MB to 2GBs of RAM.

You also get a variety of choices for your graphics. These include integrated AMD Radeon 3100 Graphics; NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS or the ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT. You also have many hard drives to choose from. The one thing the drives have in common is that they're all fast. At the low end, there's a 80GB 7,200 rpm drive and you can go up to a 500GB 7,200 rpm drive or a smaller, but faster, 160GB 10,000 rpm drive. You an also pick from one of three removable SATA drives.

Why has HP finally taken the pre-installed Linux desktop plunge? Because, Lance Stevens, software product marketing manager for business PCs at HP, explained in a Linux Planet interview, "You're right. The Linux desktop option has been on the table at HP for several years. We evaluate the market, the customer requirements and competitive situation on an ongoing basis. We talked to educational customers in particular and it became apparent to us that now was the appropriate time to roll this product out."

In other words, customers were asking for Linux. Grant Ho, Novell's senior product marketing manager
for SLED, added, "We're very excited about this release. Desktop Linux in education very clearly meets the need to help meet the pain point in security, value and cost savings." With today's economy, SMBs can certainly use that same help.

Besides SLED's usual assortment of programs, such as Firefox for Web browsing, Evolution for e-mail and OpenOffice for office work, Novell and HP will be jointly offering a repository of more than 40 open-source applications, including math, art and word games, to improve student learning. In addition, applications for school administration and instruction will be available for teachers and administrators. This repository will be available in early January.

Stevens said that that the delay is because Novell and HP are still certifying this set of education programs for use with this particular platform. What this means for you is that when you call HP for first and second-tier support, they'll not only be able to help you with SLED on the PC, but with these applications as well. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a PC company is offering free and open-source software support, beyond the operating system and Web browsers, to customers.

In a statement, Roger Levy, senior vice president and general manager of Open Platform Solutions, for Novell said, "We are excited to expand our work with HP to take advantage of the high-growth desktop Linux space. As the best-engineered and most interoperable Linux desktop, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop helps customers increase security and improve productivity. With the focus on educational users, this affordable joint offering delivers a solid learning platform and prepares students with 21st-century technology skills."

The HP Compaq dc5850 with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop is expected to be available Dec. 15 in North America at a U.S. street price of $519 via HP's Web site. The systems will also be available through educational and SMB VARs. Customers will be able to buy totally pre-configured, "Smart Buy" systems or pick and choose their own hardware configuration.

This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.com.

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