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Laptops pre-loaded with Linux getting popular

Harichandan A. A.

BANGALORE, JUNE 15. By 2006, most serious players in the computers market expect two dominant operating systems — Microsoft Windows and Linux. Accordingly, computer makers such as IBM, Dell, HP and, of course, the Taiwanese computer exporter Acer are not really taking sides, happy to sell whatever the customer wants.

Indeed, with Linux consistently bettering market expectations, these large firms are offering more choice and lower prices, not just in the server market, but also on laptops. And laptops pre-loaded with Linux operating system are gaining in popularity among Indian customers as well.

Ever since they started slashing prices on laptops and offering cheaper entry level configurations, starting some two quarters ago, companies such as HP and Acer have continued to announce incremental variations on the laptops, with a corresponding price cuts.

The latest announcements come within a couple of days of each other, with companies offering `notebooks' at `sub-40k' prices. Acer now sells its TravelMate TM 244FX laptop, pre-loaded with Linux, at less than Rs. 40,000. S. Rajendran, general manager heading Acer India's Consumer Products Group, said, "We want to make notebooks more pervasive in the Indian market. We are looking at aggressively increasing penetration among small and medium enterprises, educational and finance verticals as there is tremendous potential in these markets. HP wants to pitch its Linux laptop to the same segments. Its sub-40K notebook Compaq Presario P2514 notebook "is specifically designed to cater to the needs of the small office home office, small and medium businesses, education and sales personnel, whose primary requirements are mobility and technology at an affordable price,''a company release said.

Rajiv Grover, HP India's country manager for `consumer portables,' said, "Lifestyles and business needs are changing. The market drivers for this new line will be people on the move. We have been extremely conscious of the technology offered while launching the sub-40K notebooks. Intel Celeron Processor 2.8Ghz and the 15-inch screen are just some of the features that we boast of.''

Mr. Grover told The Hindu that for the consumer who wants it, laptops with the Windows XP operating system and Intel Pentium 4 chips are very much on offer, with the corresponding increase in price, though.

The market for notebooks at the entry-level is increasing at a rapid pace. International Data Corp., an independent market research firm in the U.S., continues to be bullish on its figures for Linux and computers working on Linux. As to Linux, "between 20 and 22 per cent of our laptop business came from notebooks loaded with Linux,'' he said. So, even in absolute numbers, companies expect twice as many laptops loaded with Linux to be sold this year than last year.

A slightly more conservative figure comes from Ravi Swaminathan, Vice-President at HP India and head of its Personal Systems Group. "Notebooks are a high potential, market experiencing an average annual growth of between 75 and 80 per cent. While many factors can be credited to this resurgence in the notebook segment, the biggest driver is mobility, productivity and greater affordability.''

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