HP revs netbooks: Attempts custom Linux OS

Hewlett Packard on Wednesday rolled out a netbook lineup designed to play catch up with Dell, Asus and others. But the real interesting play here is HP's move to develop a custom Linux operating system for one of its netbooks.

Hewlett Packard on Wednesday rolled out a netbook lineup designed to play catch up with Dell, Asus and others. But the real interesting play here is HP's move to develop a custom Linux operating system for one of its netbooks.

First the news (statement, specs, Techmeme): HP is rolling out three netbooks powered by Intel's Atom processor. Given that netbooks are accounting for most of the growth in PC units HP would be foolish not to dive in. Frankly it's a bit surprising HP has waited this long to dive into netbooks. As for the models, HP is launching:

  • The HP Mini 1000: A black netbook powered by Windows XP Home with solid-state or traditional hard drive options. Screens are 8.9 inches to 10.2 in
    hpmini.png
    ches. This one is available in December and will start at $399.
  • The HP Mini 1000 Vivienne Tam Edition (right): Basically a Mini 1000 with a red peony-flower design from Tam, who is a fashion designer HP says. (I wouldn't know Tam if she fell on my head to be honest.) This netbook, which will be available in mid-December and start at $699, is for "Internet centric fashionistas." I'm not in that fashionista club but it sounds interesting.
  • And the HP Mini 1000 with MIE (mobile Internet experience): This one comes with an HP interface that's built on Linux and is designed for digital content--videos, music and video. It also comes with Skype, instant messaging and a dashboard to get to email and browsing. The MIE will start at $379 with availability in January.

That latter one is the most interesting for a few reasons. Among them:

  • HP has been increasingly dabbling in operating system refinement and the user experience.
  • By customizing Linux it HP is illustrating that the open source OS is still too complicated for the average bear on the desktop.
  • However, if HP--and others--start improving the user experience of desktop Linux it could be an emerging threat to Windows.

When you look at the netbook market--and its growth--you realize that these mobile Internet devices are really a Trojan horse for desktop Linux. We'll see how the Mini 1000 MIE sells, but I'm very interested in HP's interface and how it compares to other operating systems.

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