HP to Preload Novell's Desktop Linux on Some Machines

Novell is counting on the Hewlett-Packard distribution channel to drive demand for notebooks and desktops preloaded with desktop Linux.

SALT LAKE CITY-Hewlett-Packard will start shipping some of its notebook and desktop computers with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 preinstalled later this year.

"We are really excited by this deal because of the power that the HP distribution channel brings, the reach they have and their commitment to interoperability. I am very enthusiastic about what this relationship could bring," Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian told eWEEK in an interview here at its BrainShare 2008 conference.

SLED 10 recently started shipping on Dell and Lenovo boxes, and the company said at the time that it was looking for other OEM partners. "But the work on that front is not done, and we will continue to try to get additional OEMs to prebundle SLED 10," he said.

Primary support (levels one and two) will be offered by HP, while Novell will offer Level 3 support, Hovsepian said, adding that its desktop software will be available on select HP systems in the second quarter of this year.

HP could not immediately be reached for comment.

One of the biggest obstacles to making Linux a credible desktop alternative to Microsoft Windows has been the lack of OEM partners willing to preload and support the operating system, both Hovsepian and Novell Chief Technology Officer Jeff Jaffe told eWEEK.

This deal with HP is another milestone down that road and, along with the similar Novell desktop prebundling moves by Dell and Lenovo, is ratcheting up business awareness of SLED 10 as a credible alternative to Windows, Hovsepian said.

Jaffe agreed, noting that most businesses buy their desktop operating system when they replace their hardware, so the greater the number of notebook and desktop models on which SLED 10 ships, the better its chance of being adopted.

"The big issue today has to do with creating the right ecosystem, and a lot of the desktops are delivered through OEMs, which is why we have focused on these partnerships and will continue to do so," he said.

But Jaffe also acknowledged that SLED 10 is unlikely to unseat Windows anytime soon, quipping, "I'm not predicting 10 percent market share right now.

"Our differential value proposition has a lot to do with openness and cost, and we are already there with those things, but the roadblock we have had, despite capability, usability, cost and openness, is that it has been really hard to crack the market," he said.

"There are a lot of legacy Windows applications out there, and finding the right way to support them is another important piece of this."