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HP Readies Linux Business Desktop

The Compaq dc5850 could appeal to cash-strapped school districts and businesses in the current economic downturn.

HP's Linux-based Compaq dc5850
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HP's Linux-based Compaq dc5850

Hewlett-Packard plans to offer next week a business desktop pre-loaded with Linux and a number of open source desktop applications, including the OpenOffice.org productivity suite.

HP introduced the offering less than a week after IBM made generally available a Linux-desktop package that includes the Ubuntu distribution of the open source operating system and IBM's Lotus e-mail, instant messaging, and office productivity applications. IBM is offering to roll out the package on companies' PCs via the vendor's IT services unit.

HP's offering is less ambitious. the company is offering to preload Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop on the HP Compaq dc5850. The package will also include OpenOffice, the open source alternative to Microsoft's Office suite, a Web browser, multimedia tools, and e-mail, collaboration, and instant messaging software.

HP is particularly focused on the education market. The company says it's working with Novell to develop more than 40 applications, including math, art, and work games, to help educate children. In addition, the companies are developing applications for school administration and instruction for teachers and administrators.

Microsoft-free PCs could appeal to cash-strapped school districts and businesses in the current economic downturn. IBM has said that systems built on its open source client should cost about half as much as Windows PCs. That's because computer vendors that sell Windows systems must pay a license fee to Microsoft for each system shipped and usually pass the cost on to customers.

In addition, HP and IBM are introducing their offerings at a time when Microsoft is vulnerable in the business market. Few large enterprises have upgraded their systems to Microsoft's newest operating system, Windows Vista, because it requires more powerful PCs than the older XP, has intrusive security features, and lacks compatibility with older software.

HP plans to start selling the Linux-powered Compaq dc5850 Dec. 15 in the United States. Pricing starts at $519.