Linux laptops reemerge

While the usual server news was plentiful at the LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco last week, a few announcements were made of new laptops that let users get personal with the Linux kernel.

HP led the way announcing a Linux-based notebook PC - its first pre-configured Linux laptop. The Compaq nx5000, a laptop starting at US$1,140, runs Novell's SuSE Linux 9.1. The laptop can be ordered with either an Intel Celeron or Pentium processor, and a 30G-byte or 60G-byte hard drive.

Meanwhile, lesser-known Pogo Linux announced its KonaBook 3100, another Linux laptop offering. This laptop appears to be aimed at serious Linux developers or other power users, since it is based on the 64-bit AMD64 mobile processor. The laptop comes with either Novell's SuSE Linux or the Fedora operating system - from Red Hat's "free" open-source operating system project. Both software versions run the 2.6 Linux kernel, and include embedded 802.11 wireless and DVD/CD-RW drives. The KonaBooks are available now starting at US$2,300.

Walk around any LinuxWorld, and you will see many hackers sporting Linux-based laptops. But previously, these machines have largely been rip-and-replace jobs, where a Microsoft operating system was deleted from a laptop and Linux installed - or sometimes in a dual-boot configuration alongside Windows.

Some large vendors, such as IBM, have offered pre-installed Linux laptops in the past, but most have since stopped selling the products. It seems HP and Pogo are betting that more people are willing to try Linux on a portable machine, as the technology becomes more mainstream on desktops. IDC says Linux has surpassed the Mac for second place in client operating systems, behind Windows of course.

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Phil Hochmuth

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