HP has dropped Linux as an operating-system option for its latest netbooks in the UK market.
An HP spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Thursday that it will not offer the Linux version of the new HP Mini 1000 in "quite a few of the European markets", including the UK. The netbook, which was launched in October, was planned to go on sale in all versions this month. In fact, British customers cannot buy any version of the Mini 1000 other than the designer, premium-priced Vivienne Tam edition. That version, which comes only with Windows XP, is already on sale for about £450.
HP is selling the Mini 1000 Mobile Internet Experience (MIE) edition, which uses a customised version of Ubuntu Linux and is aimed at home-entertainment use, in the US.
The Compaq Mini 700, which is HP's cheaper but similarly specified alternative to the Mini 1000, will be available in the UK. However, it too will come in an XP flavour. British customers can also buy HP's business-oriented Mini 2140, which comes with a choice between XP and Vista.
The manufacturer does offer UK buyers a cheap subnotebook that uses Linux — the Mini 2133 — but that model has been out for almost a year. The 2133 belongs to the previous generation of netbooks and has been superseded by the Mini 1000, which uses Intel's Atom processor rather than the less powerful Via C7-M processor found in the 2133.
HP's spokesperson said the decision to drop Linux from netbooks aimed at the UK market had been taken "a month ago", but declined to comment on the reason. After ZDNet UK asked for clarification, HP sent a statement in which it said it had "assessed the current EMEA market and believes that the Compaq 700 and HP Mini 1000 Vivienne Tam Edition better address the market and consumer needs".
The statement concluded: "As a result, the HP Mini 1000 with Mobile Internet Experience will not be introduced in EMEA."
The fast-growing netbook market, which only got going in 2007, kicked off with the launch of Asus's Linux-only Eee PC 701. In early 2008, Microsoft announced a partnership with Asus to put Windows XP onto the next generation of the Eee, and since then XP has become a standard option on netbooks.
Microsoft has been offering XP to netbook manufacturers at a reduced price, as long as they agreed to certain specification limitations.
There have been reports that retailers have had more Linux-based netbooks returned to them by customers than their XP-based counterparts, because buyers struggled to use the unfamilar operating system. However, the top-selling netbook in Europe has been Acer's Aspire One netbook, which usually uses the Linpus Linux distribution.