The HP Compaq Business Notebook nx5000, which costs US$1,199, has an Intel Pentium M processor and affiliated Centrino wireless technology. It can be ordered preloaded with SuSE Linux and OpenOffice, and it is already available with Windows.
The announcement was expected at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, but HP has already posted information about the Linux-based laptop on its Web site. Other vendors are expected to follow suit in the near future.
HP already sells PCs using Linux from MandrakeSoft and Turbolinux, but the way was cleared for SuSE as well through a March deal with Novell.
Generally, HP's Linux PCs sell for less than their Windows counterparts, at least overseas. The company sells Pavilion desktops in China with Windows and Linux. Spot checks at stores show a basic Linux Pavilion with a monitor selling for about US$700, while the Windows XP version sells for US$60 more.
The Linux-based nx5000 laptop will be sold only in the United States at first, according to HP. A longtime Microsoft ally, HP has been expanding its support for open-source software.
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," Governor said.
It's only a matter of time before other computer makers also release Linux-based systems, he said: "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 is difficult, and he promised that HP will be making progress in that area. Allison acknowledged that the first thing he had done with his work laptop was to reformat it and remove Windows.
ZDNet UK's Munir Kotadia reported from London. For more coverage from ZDNet UK, click here.