HP plans to distribute computers pre-installed with Mandriva Linux across Latin America, Mandriva announced on Wednesday.
Mandriva, the company formed when the French Linux vendor Mandrakesoft merged with its Brazilian counterpart Conectiva last year, said it will work with HP on sales, support and marketing in "all Latin American territories", including Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.
At the time of writing, HP did not have any information on its partnership with Mandriva on its main Web site, HP.com. But in a statement issued by Mandriva, Sherry Elrod Manzano, the head of the Personal Solution Center Latin America for HP, said: "HP has worked successfully with Mandriva on several products in the past. This new agreement marks our continued confidence in Mandriva."
François Bancilhon, Mandriva's chief executive, added that this agreement validates its investment in Brazil through the acquisition of Conectiva.
"Latin America will be an area of growth for Mandriva moving forward," Bancilhon said.
The companies have already started shipping two pre-loaded machines in Brazil, which are aimed at the consumer and enterprise market respectively. Technical support will be offered in both Spanish and Portuguese across the region.
The move is part of a general trend seeing HP moving towards open source, though may be slightly bolder than expected. Christine Martino, who became vice-president of HP's open source and Linux organisation in November, said recently: "It's something we're watching closely to see when and where the uptake is... I see that as much more an emerging area."
Latin America is a big growth market for Linux, particularly as a number of governments are putting policies in place to encourage the adoption of open source software. Last year, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said the country's public administration will switch to open source software over the next two years. The Brazilian federal government is also hoping to mandate the use of open source software, through a decree that would force government agencies to migrate.
Microsoft is tackling this potential threat through the introduction of a low-cost operating system in Latin America. Windows XP Starter Edition is already available in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, and the vendor has said it will eventually be available throughout Latin America.
ZDNet UK recently completed a study looking at open source in governments across the world. This included information on the use of open source by the Brazilian public sector and potential reasons for its enthusiasm for non-proprietary software.