A Taiwan white box manufacturer has Linux community buzzing by sending 300,000 low-cost laptops bundled with the Lindows operating system to North American stores. If accepted by buyers it would be a big score for the open source OS on the desktop, where it has struggled against Windows.

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spokesman for San Diego-based Lindows.com said the model from Elitegroup Computer Systems Co., the A535, will be available here by the end of the month.

However, Canadian distributors of hardware from Elitegroup Computer Systems Co. (ECS) are careful about predicting the unit’s future here.

Most ECS laptops are bare-bones units that don’t come with an operating system, noted Ken Yuen, director of sales for Daiwa Distribution Ltd. of Markham, Ont. That causes buyer concerns about illegal software copying, he said.

With the A535 “”resellers won’t have to worry about licensing or copyright issues,”” he said. And, he added, unlike a basic system buyers will have a machine that can run right out of the box.

Still, he doubts there will be big orders for the product.

Other ECS distributors were also careful, although they admitted they had no product arrival or Canadian pricing information, which would affect their opinion.

In a news release ECS said the A535, powered by an AMD 1400+ processor, 128 MB of memory, a 14-inch LCD screen, 20 GB hard drive, a DVD drive and WiFi support would sell for US$699. On a strict currency exchange basis that would translate into CDN$889.

“”Most of our customers use Windows,”” said James Xu, president of Empire Canada Systems of Richmond, B.C.

“”But it depends on how much the software adds to the cost. If it’s $20 more, it’s OK. If it’s over $60, I don’t think the customer needs that.””

A Linux-powered notebook “”will be a good selling point,”” said Vicki Lai, product manager of Mini Micro Canada of Toronto.

But she also noted that at most three per cent of the company’s customers use Linux. “”Right now our customers aren’t educated enough to accept Linux,”” she said.

 

Understandably, the people at San Diego-based Lindows.com are delighted with the deal. “”We’re very happy,”” said Cheryl Schwarzman, the company’s public relations director.

“”This is pretty big numbers for Linux on the desktop.

“”Our real victory is because it’s bundled with the hardware. If you already have an operating system a lot of consumers don’t understand why you’d go out and buy another one.

The A535 will ship with LindowsOS 4.5 Laptop Edition, which comes with OpenOffice, a productivity suite.

It’s hard to estimate Linux desktop sales in Canada because the OS can be downloaded from the Internet as well as sold with a system, said Eddie Chan, mobile and PC research analyst with IDC Canada. He believes the percentage is small.

“”There is opportunity”” for a fully configured Linux laptop, he added, but the market is still in its infancy.

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