In an effort to seize an opportunity created by regional resistanceto the Windows operating system, Hewlett-Packard has said it plans to beginshipping more desktop computers loaded with the Linux operating system in Asia.
HP said it will partner with Turbolinux to ship theopen-source desktop platform starting in June to a dozen countries in theAsia-Pacific region, including China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.The machines will be targeted toward small and mid-size corporations.
As the second largest seller of PCs worldwide, HP’s move could be just thelatest shot across the bow of Microsoft, which has struggled to attain andmaintain the same type of dominance in the Asian software market that itenjoys in most other markets around the world.
Real and Present Danger
Although Linux on the desktop is still a relative blip on the radar screen, Windowsalternatives are likely to be more warmly received in the Asian market, IDC analystRoger Kay told the E-Commerce Times.
“The Chinese have made it clear that they have a choice and they want tochoose flexibility,” Kay said. “They’re not in the same position as theU.S. and Europe, where millions of machines already have older forms ofWindows on them. They can actually start from scratch.”
Asia is a hotbed of support for Linux, largely because governmentsin the region think its adoption will help local software companies competewith more established counterparts around the world, such as Microsoft. Latelast year, three key Asian nations — China, Korea and Japan — announcedthey would work together to promote Linux uptake.
Microsoft has tried to answer that challenge by opening up its source codeto governments in the region. The move also is designed to help answer questionsabout the security of its Windows operating system.
The challenge in Asia comes as Microsoft has its hands full in another partof the world. Company president Steve Ballmer reportedly has been in heateddiscussions recently with European Union regulators who say they willannounce next week what sanctions, if any, they plan to levy againstMicrosoft to help create a more level and competitive playing field.
HP and Turbolinux touted the features in the latest version ofTurbolinux, including built-in wireless capabilities, CD-burning drives andsoftware that allows images to be loaded from digital cameras. The machinesalso will come packed with OpenOffice 1.1, which is designed to have thesame look and feel of Microsoft’s Office suite and can exchangedocuments with the Windows-based system.
They also focused on the ease of keeping the software up to date, sayingit can be updated automatically with newer Linux kernels and securitypatches by using a graphical update tool that does not requiremachine rebooting to take effect.
Although specific pricing for the machines was not disclosed — and likelywill vary by country — Gartner analyst David Smith told the E-CommerceTimes that HP probably can shave the price substantially by loadingLinux.
That, in turn, will enable HP to get a foothold in emerging markets that itone day may be able to leverage into more high-end sales to enterprises. Smithsaid movement away from Windows by Asian governments also may drive privateadoption of Linux. “From a strategic point of view, it’s a good move forHP,” he said.
Other companies have tried to leverage Microsoft’s misfortuneinto their own gains, with results of those experiments still too difficultto measure. For instance, Sun Microsystems used the public-relations disaster ofthe Blaster worm to push its Mad Hatter open-source Windows alternative.