HP Adds More Linux for PCs

HP , the world’s No. 2 PC maker, announced a deal for Novell to provide SuSE Linux support and testing on its desktops and laptops.

The two companies already have agreements to run SuSE on HP ProLiant and Integrity servers. This agreement extends the relationship to encompass all computer systems from the client side of the network all the way up to the server.

Red Hat , a SuSE competitor, also works with HP, but on the server side. According to HP’s Web site, Red Hat stopped support for Red Hat Linux Professional versions 7.2, 7.3 and 8.0 last December and will end support for version 9 next month. HP advises its customers to move to Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux, though they will support current users until December 2005.

On Tuesday, Red Hat and IBM announced that they were providing their own client-to-server side software/hardware solidarity in the 64-bit computing environment.

PC manufacturers are starting to focus on Linux as a driver for PC growth after seeing how open source helped drive server sales in 2003. No. 2 in the server market
behind IBM, HP saw modest revenue growth of 5 percent for servers and surely wouldn’t mind seeing the same in PC and laptops sales.

HP was slightly behind in market share (16.4 percent to 16.9 percent) to rival Dell in worldwide PC shipments in 2003, according to preliminary results from research firm IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker
statistics in January.

To close the gap with Dell, HP is embracing the savings a Linux operating system provides over a Microsoft Windows-based environment to reduce prices of desktops and laptops.

Today’s announcement comes a week after the company launched a program to sell HP systems pre-installed with the Turbolinux operating system to 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Asia-Pacific and Eastern European countries, as well as India, are prime targets for HP’s Linux strategy going forward, said HP’s vice president of Linux Martin Fink.

“That’s where the vast majority of the volume is,” Fink said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “And there is no legacy installed.” Market penetration in North America, on the other hand, has been
significantly slower, he said.

When Fink says legacy, you can read that to mean Microsoft’s Windows, which dominates in the desktop OS space. Mentioning Windows, however, elicited a sigh from Fink, who said he rarely makes Linux decisions in terms of how it stacks up against Windows. HP and Microsoft have a similar relationship to Novell’s new agreement on the desktop.

“While there is this tendency to say, ‘Hey, what about Microsoft?’ from our point of view, we have a multi-OS strategy, and [the Novell announcement] is just an extension of [that],” he said.

Currently, the PC manufacturer offers Linux-based systems by a variety of commercial open-source vendors — Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, Turbolinux and Caldera/Debian — on certain Compaq, Vectra, Brio, Evo, Armada and e-pc product lines. In 2003, the company reported $2.5 billion in Linux-related revenues and expanded its Real World Linux program.

HP might have a slight edge in the business world as the only major manufacturer to indemnify its Linux customers. Currently, the SCO Group is suing IBM for copyright
infringement after its original “trade secrets” suit was dropped. The SCO Group has already filed lawsuits against companies running Linux in the enterprise and vows to include more.

Novell is also embroiled with the SCO Group in a related matter, saying the Lindon, Utah, company doesn’t have the copyright authority to the contested Unix code to be able to sue IBM in the first place.

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