HP unveils Linux-based laptop

HP is set to launch an Intel-based notebook preloaded with SuSE Linux

HP will unveil a new laptop that comes preloaded with SuSE Linux at the LinuxWorld Conference San Francisco on Tuesday, ZDNet UK has learned.

Details of the notebook leaked early when the company mistakenly published details of the notebook on its Web site.

The HP Compaq Business Notebook nx5000, which starts at $1199 (£650) in the US, comes with either an Intel Pentium M or Celeron processor, between 256MB and 2GB of DDR SDRAM and a 15-inch display that can handle a screen resolution of up to 1600 x 1200 at 100Hz.

The notebook comes pre-loaded with either SuSE or Mandrake Linux 9.1, with the OpenOffice.org productivity suite. Additionally, the HP offers a choice of either 802.11b or an 802.11a/b/g wireless networking combo and optional support for Bluetooth.

The nx5000 lasts up to four hours on a standard six-cell Lithium-ion battery or up to nine hours with the optional MultiBay battery. HP is the first major laptop vendor to launch a non-Windows notebook and other vendors are expected to follow in the near future.

James Governor, principal analyst at RedMonk, welcomed the development. He said that because Linux comes preinstalled, users don't have to go through the hassle of installing a new operating system.

"In this industry, [given] the amount of money companies spend on marketing, sometimes vendors seem to have a surprisingly thin idea of what people want to buy. Preinstalled Linux on laptops and PCs is an idea whose time has come," said Governor.

Governor said he is convinced it is only a matter of time before the other vendors also release Linux-based systems. "HP is shipping this -- they have taken the hassle out of installing a new OS. If HP is doing it, it is going to be pretty hard for all the other vendors not to follow."

At the Linux User and Development Conference in London in April, HP Samba team member Jeremy Allison agreed with attendees that buying a laptop without Windows was difficult and promised that HP would be making progress in that area. Allison admitted that the first thing he had done with his work laptop was to reformat it and remove Windows.

"I was annoyed that I couldn't get a refund. It's a scandal that you can't do that," said Allison. However, HP has confirmed that the Linux-based NX5000 will be sold only in the US at first.

ZDNet UK's Graeme Wearden contributed to this report

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