"We want the Intel architecture to be the platform of choice," an Intel spokesman says. "That's why we do this." Demand for Linux has been growing in the desktop market, particularly among government organizations, he says.
To meet that demand, Intel is offering the Intel Quick Start Kit for Linux, which supports desktop installations from Red Hat, Novell, and Red Flag Linux Software. A future version will support a Linux desktop offered by the China Standard Software Co.
Linux's appeal isn't likely to be limited to the Asian market, with usage growing also in Central and Eastern Europe, says Dan Kusnetzky, VP of system software research at research firm IDC. Linux became the No. 2 operating system in terms of worldwide shipments in late 2003.
It remains a tiny slice of the market, however. It comprised less than 3% of desktop shipments in 2002, according to IDC, and the research firm predicts it will comprise just under 6% of operating-system shipments in 2007.
While Intel's support for an operating system that competes with Microsoft's Windows might call into question the long-term viability of the Wintel alliance, the growth of Linux doesn't yet appear to be threatening the health of Windows in the marketplace. According to Kusnetzky, Linux's recent gains are coming at the expense of non-Microsoft operating systems.