By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-08-20 Print this article Print

-Name Vendors"> Besides, these days most businesses want to buy their computers from a brand-name vendor. Unfortunately, even the ones that support Linux do a lousy job of supporting desktop Linux.

For example, it was only a few weeks ago at LinuxWorld that HP finally announced that it would be shipping a laptop with Linux: the Compaq nx5000. The nx5000 is now available with Novells SuSE Linux 9.1 and preinstalled by HP. You get a choice of two CPUs: a 1.2GHz Celeron or a 1.8GHz Pentium M. The laptop also supports up to 2GB of 266MHz DDR SDRAM, and is offered with 30-80GB of hard drive. Youll find it for sale at HP resellers in the low $1,000 range.

Sounds nice, doesnt it? But when you look on the nx5000product page, one of the first things youll see is a large announcement that "HP recommends Microsoft Windows XP Professional." With support like this, who needs enemies?

Still, at least HP has one preinstalled Linux system. IBM keeps being coy about Linux preloads. You can get almost anything from IBM with Linux, but its never as easy as getting a desktop or laptop with Windows.

And even when you do arrange to get a preloaded Linux IBM PC, it may not support all of the supplied hardware. For example, you can get the ThinkPad T40 with SuSE Linux Desktop 1.0, but it doesnt support either the supplied modem or Wi-Fi equipment.

Now, I know the modem isnt supported because its a WinModem—a cheap kind of modem, common as dirt, that requires Windows to run at all—but come on IBM, youre Big Blue! Use some of your business leverage to get the Wi-Fi vendors to finally open up their devices APIs so we can finally get broad Wi-Fi support for Linux instead of the hit-or-miss Wi-Fi support that Linux is stuck with today.

In fact, hardware vendors and Linux distributors, listen up. If you want the Linux desktop to really go anywhere, you need to partner up and get preinstalled Linux desktops out there on the street and into resellers inventories. So long as we rely on users and IT departments to upgrade their PCs to advance Linux, Linux on the desktop will be stuck as a niche desktop player. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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