HP touts four-in-one Linux PC

With new PCs offering more computing power than a single user needs for basic work such as exploring the Internet or creating documents, Hewlett-Packard is now pushing a desktop machine that includes four monitors, keyboards and mice. The Mandrakelinux-equipped machine can be used by four users at one time.

The quad computer, called the HP 441, is being aimed first at the education market in developing countries, where keeping hardware costs down is critical. The machines can be equipped with Intel Celeron or Pentium 4 processors and come with at least 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive and four specialized graphics cards.

In an announcement Monday, Mandrakesoft said the machines include a customized Mandrakelinux operating system that allows users to access the operating system and applications at the same time. The Linux kernel already allows two users to share the operating system at the same time; modifications to the source code for this product doubled those capabilities.

Brooke Partridge, HP's business manager for emerging markets, said the HP 441 is already being used in schools in a pilot project in South Africa and work is continuing on expanding sales into other countries. The machine is optimized for education use and includes more than 70 related applications and the open-source OpenOffice.org productivity suite.

In South Africa, the machines sell for about US$400 per seat, or US$1,600 for four users, which can be as much as 50 percent less than separate white-box PCs equipped with monitors, keyboards and mice, Partridge said. Having four people use one PC at the same time saves about 50 percent of the hardware acquisition costs and 65 percent of maintenance costs, she said.

The idea for the machines was born out af an HP Linux Competency Center in Grenoble, France, where engineers looked at ways of using the power of modern PCs in more productive ways, Partridge said. Even with four users running applications at once, she said, the system resources don't get overtaxed.

HP chose Linux for the machines for several reasons, including the ability to access and modify the operating system source code, and because it is leaner and has more capacity for system resources while offering the lowest per-seat prices for users. Another factor, she said, is that many governments in emerging markets have shown a preference for the use of open-source software when possible because of lower costs and added flexibility.

"We would be more than happy to discuss the potential of the 441 with Microsoft, but right now, we've done it with Linux," Partridge said.

The 441 will be offered in other developing nations in November, she said, and could eventually hit the U.S. market. But she declined to comment on that prospect in detail.

Francois Bancilhon, CEO of Mandrakesoft, said in a statement that the new hardware shows that technology innovations can be used to help users save money.

Analysts said the idea and the potential for the systems is intriguing.

Rob Batchelder, an independent analyst at Relevance, said the 441 essentially provides mainframelike time sharing instead of requiring costly hardware for each user. "As a variation on a hardware line, I think it's a good idea," he said. "It makes perfect sense with Linux."

At least one similar product, the Buddy PC from now-defunct Vega Technologies, offered cables and hardware in the late 1990s that would allow two users to access the same PC. "I think it's a very interesting question," Batchelder said. "We should have processing speed to burn."

Carol Baroudi, an analyst at Baroudi Bloor in Arlington, Mass., said that while the concept of a four-user PC for the education market is a good one, its attraction for small and medium-size businesses might also be worth exploring. "Anything that's pushing the price point down for small business is a good thing," Baroudi said.

But business users would need to be sure that they can run needed applications on Linux, she said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Todd R. Weiss

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?