What is interesting is the top-down approach to a Linux-based product. Typically, you would expect the first official offering on a low-cost software platform to be bottoms up, but Linux is simply not ready for the general desktop yet, and vendors such as Dell continue to report that Linux-based laptops are unprofitable. To read about IBMs Linux SMB incentive program, click here.Engineers have also shown a willingness to pay for the software value they are receiving, regardless of the platform they are receiving it on. For instance, CAD products maintain the same prices on Windows and Unix, suggesting they would maintain these margins on Linux as well. This position was exemplified at the recent SIIA conference, where professional products were reported to hold prices much better on Linux then general productivity products or consumer offerings. Of course, to make this happen, they also needed a software application vendor, and for this they chose Cadence Design Systems, one of the leaders in electronic design automation. Cadence is not only heavily used by Intel but by competing firms such as National Semiconductor. Click here to read about Intels enterprise chief leaving to join Cadence. This is likely the tip of the iceberg. HP, Sun, Dell and others also lust after this workstation market, and AMD has being making inroads into the desktop segment of this space for some time through its relationships with Sun and HP. This is just the first salvo, and we will likely see a number of technology providersand hardware vendorsjump into this space over the next few months. This is a segment with unique performance needs, but the high-resolution screens and some of the graphics technology required by it should migrate down to the general desktop over time. One other player who may be interested in this space is Microsoft. Windows NT started out targeted at workstations, and that focus was largely lost when NT was shifted to the desktop. This could be a wake-up call for Microsoft because where engineers go, their companies often follow. Rob Enderle is the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a company specializing in emerging personal technology. Full disclosure: One of Enderles clients is Microsoft as well as Advanced Micro Devices, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Transmeta, VIA and Vulcan. In addition, Enderle sits on advisory councils for AMD, ClearCube, Comdex, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and TCG. Check out eWEEK.coms Desktop & Notebook Center at http://desktop.eweek.com for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.
But the workstation class of laptop computers carries strong margins and sells to an audience willing to pay for the performance it needs.