One of the biggest factors that has inhibited the growth of Linux and open source technologies within the South African market has been that the vast majority of PCs sold today are preloaded with Microsoft's flavours of the Windows XP operating system.
"In a nutshell, no savvy business would willingly uninstall a perfectly functional operating system in Windows XP (and furthermore one they paid for as part of the acquisition cost of their notebook or desktop) to install Linux as an alternative," says Jason McMillan, HP product manager at Tarsus Technologies. "That said, however, the popular opinion in the market has been that if the cost of the operating system was to be taken out of the equation, the public's decision would be vastly different," McMillan opines.
"While many businesses would still choose to buy a Microsoft licence and install Windows, at the same time, a fair proportion of businesses would choose to use Linux and the host of open source applications it comes with," he continues. "So in response to this clear need in the market, Tarsus Technologies has announced what is considered to be a local industry first, namely the availability of the HP NX6610 notebook without a Microsoft operating system."
This has been made possible through the use of a free bootable operating system called FreeDOS and two locally-supported Linux distributions, namely ImpiLinux and Linspire. At face value, this represents a cost reduction of between R700 to R1000 over a conventional notebook preloaded with either Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional.
Both of the Linux distributions also come preloaded with the OpenOffice suite of productivity tools, which adds a further R2000 to R2500 saving to the mix, considering users would need to buy a copy of Microsoft's Office suite of tools to gain the same functionality.
"We urge SMEs not to forget that the support for both Linspire and ImpiLinux will need to be facilitated through a separate agreement with the relevant suppliers, namely Yellow Penguin and ImpiLinux respectively."
Looking at the hardware the NX6110s sport under the hood, McMillan says the notebooks are not low-spec machines pitched at an entry-level market. "They are a couple of rungs up and aimed squarely at the SME market which we believe is ripe for open source adoption," he adds.
There are two models in the NX6110 range, available with a choice of either a 1,5 GHz Celeron or 1,73 GHz Centrino processor. While both come standard with 256 MB RAM, 40 GB hard disk and DVD Writer, the Centrino model comes with integrated wireless LAN functionality (since this is part of the Centrino chipset) and the Celeron comes equipped with a standard wired Ethernet port.
"This offer is a first for HP in South Africa and we believe it signifies a move that is also relatively innovative across the portfolio of international brands represented in South Africa. No other distributor or vendor has made an offering of this type in the market. We believe the Linux curios SME space represents an awesome market opportunity for HP, since the SME market is where the biggest growth in open source interest is predicted to stem from.
"In the coming months, we will also be considering a move to expand this offer to encompass other HP solutions," he adds. "We have already had a good response from this latest offer, as well as from the decision a couple of months ago to make this available on the HP DX and DC series of desktops - we believe it can only go from strength to strength," he concludes.