HP Sees Huge Linux Desktop Deals

"We are involved in a number of massive deals for Linux desktops, and those are the kinds of things that are indicators of critical mass. So we are really looking at it very hard," said Doug Small, worldwide director of open source and Linux marketing at HP. "We are in a massive deal right now for ... multi-thousands of units of a desktop opportunity for Linux. That's an indicator." He declined to give details about the Linux deals.

Though HP doesn't offer a specific SKU of a notebook or desktop PC preloaded with Linux, several of its notebooks are certified to work with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 operating system and with Red Hat Linux. The Palo Alto, Calif., IT giant also provides Linux-loaded PCs for custom orders, such as large enterprise deals.

HP has preloaded PCs with Linux in previous years, but the market acceptance wasn't there to do that on a broader scale, according to Small. "Frankly, we did that in the past and didn't see the results for it," he said.

While no tier-one vendor currently provides a factory-loaded SKU of Linux desktops or notebooks, the marketplace chatter is increasing.

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Besides HP's custom Linux PC orders and overall rising interest in desktop Linux, Lenovo certifies some of its systems for SLED 10, and Dell said it's poised to do the same. Just days after launching an online suggestion Web site for customers, tens of thousands of people wrote to Dell saying that the company should provide Linux as a PC preload.

Robert Brentson, CEO of InTech Solutions, a Penfield, N.Y.-based solution provider and HP and Novell partner, agreed that the Linux PC segment is reaching an inflection point. He pointed to integrated SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for ProLiant and BladeSystem servers and suggested that "at the desktop, I do think you're going to see a similar amount of support as well."

Brentson said stumbling blocks to Linux on the enterprise desktop -- particularly in the education space -- have been the availability of support training and end-user training plus the deployment of technology such as Novell's ZENworks Desktop Management. Brentson said his firm, a Novell certified Gold partner, is on track to begin providing such training and consulting in the near term.

Small said HP's delivery of enterprise Linux to the channel now includes a focus on blade solutions.

"Because of the affinity for Linux and blades, we are spending a lot of energy focusing on that area and are developing a lot of programs we'll be rolling out to channel partners during this year to educate them, to work with them and to maximize this opportunity in building solutions," Small said.

He added that HP also plans some enhancements to its channel programs to help in the delivery of Linux solutions, but he didn't give details.