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Mandrake supplying Linux on HP desktops

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The pre-installed OEM Linux desktop is about to become a reality under a deal announced by HP on Thursday.

The product of this marriage will be the HP Compaq Business Desktop d220 Microtower, available with Mandrake Linux 9.1 or that other OS, and targeting small to medium business (SMB) customers.

The boxes will be available from 7 July. Prices will start at around US $349 for a d220 with a Celeron 2.0-GHz processor, 40-gig HDD and 128-MB DDR SDRAM, and top out at about $799.

It appears that HP is taking the MS-unfriendly step of passing along the software savings to customers, as the current base model d220, loaded with that other OS, starts at $429, or $90 higher than the Linux model quoted in the press release, which sounds about right.

Readers may recall that when Dell began selling naked boxes last Summer they cost the same as comparable models loaded with Windows. HP, in contrast, seems able to make a profit without charging customers for products they're not receiving, though we can't confirm this positively until the machines actually go on sale next week.

One thing not mentioned in the press release is whether CodeWeavers' Crossover product will be included to ease Linux migration for those SMBs addicted to MS Office. This would certainly be $50 well spent to promote interest in the Linux desktop.

MandrakeSoft has been under Chapter 11 protection since early this year, but has shown a few good signs lately involving a new server product, a new clustering product, and now a deal with a major OEM for a desktop product. So there are definite signs of life in the struggling company.

Of course, whether the HP Linux desktop will be a strong seller remains to be seen: demand for products is driven by advertising, and this is one area where no Linux distributor can even contemplate competing with Redmond. It's one thing to offer a superior OS, a price advantage and a sane licensing scheme. Getting the word out is another matter altogether. ®

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