HP Sees Linux Desktop Nearing Critical Mass

Analysis: HP is happy to do Linux desktop pre-loads for enterprise customers, but as for consumers, that day isn't here... yet.

The good news, according to an HP executive, is that the company sees "the Linux desktop nearing critical mass." The bad news, for would be off-the-shelf Linux desktop buyers, is that its still not there yet.

Doug Small, HPs worldwide director of open source and Linux marketing, explained that while "the number of indicators we look at—the noise level, the interest in the products on the market, the interest in our forums—are all tending to heat up for Linux during the last six months or so." However, "Its still not been enough to get a pre-configured Linux desktop or laptop on the price list."

An earlier interview by Small had led to a great deal of buzz that HP was going to release a mainstream Linux PC before Dell released such a system. Unfortunately, thats not really the case. According to Small, the problem seems to be that "most of the serious interest were seeing in the Linux desktop is coming from enterprises," and most of those from outside the U.S. and North American markets. For example, Small said that a Chinese company recently awarded HP a contract for several thousand laptops pre-loaded with Novells SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10. "We have a large deal in India working with a supply chain customer," he added.

Its not that HP doesnt hear from personal and SMB (small- to medium-sized business) users about a Linux desktop. "The noise level has been growing there, too," said Small. "On the Web sites, we are seeing a significant increase in number of Linux questions on how to integrate desktops and laptops." Its just that the interest level isnt as high in those markets as it is in the enterprise, he explained.

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