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PC makers lap up Linux

update Open source platform appears to be winning fans as a growing number of major PC makers give it the nod, with Lenovo latest to join the party.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

updateIt seems Linux fever is sweeping across laptop makers, with Lenovo this week unveiling plans to join a growing string of PC manufacturers that have started selling systems preloaded with the open source platform.

World's No. 3 PC maker Lenovo on Monday said it will make laptops preloaded with Novell Suse Linux available for sale in the fourth quarter of 2007, to both business customers and consumers. The Chinese company made its announcement this week's LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, which runs from Aug. 6 to 9.

A spokesperson for Lenovo Asia-Pacific told ZDNet Asia the company plans to bring the Linux sets into the region by the end of the year. It will offer standard configuration models, as well as limited configurations that can be purchased through its business partners, said the spokesperson.

Just last week, ZDNet Asia's sister site ZDNet UK reported that Acer laptops preloaded with Ubuntu Linux were on sale in Singapore. However, reports later surfaced that this installation of Ubuntu was carried out by an independent distributor in Singapore, not Acer.

In an e-mail response to ZDNet Asia, Acer confirmed its Linux editions come with Taiwanese distribution Linpus--and not Ubuntu, which is commercially supported by South African company Canonical.

Acer declined to comment on targeted sales figures for its Linux laptops, or whether it was planning to offer this option in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

Bryan Ma, IDC's Asia-Pacific director of personal systems research, expressed doubt that the latest show of support from PC makers truly reflects a growing Linux fan base in Asia. Instead, Ma believes there is a portion of users who buy the cheaper Linux sets only to install pirated versions of Microsoft Windows on these systems.

"In most of the countries in Asia, save for some like Singapore, pirated software can still be readily found," the IDC analyst explained. "It's a trend that's been going on for a good number of years in the region."

According to figures from the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the Asia-Pacific average piracy rate, including Australia and Japan, stood at 55 percent last year. Estimated revenue losses due to piracy increased by 44 percent to US$11.6 billion in 2006, compared to US$8.1 billion the year before, BSA said. Revenue losses in China alone totaled US$5.4 billion last year, while India saw losses of US$1.3 billion due to software piracy.

Ma said: "Consumers are very price-sensitive, and may not be as resistant to using pirated software as businesses because there is a lower likelihood of someone doing a spot check on your household [than a company]."

In May, Dell Computer announced it would offer Ubuntu as an option in the United States. It has also recently announced that the United Kingdom, France, Germany and China will receive shipments of the Linux sets, too. Dell has yet to announce similar plans for the Asia-Pacific region.

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