July 15, 2003 6:33 AM PDT

SuSE to sell Linux PCs online

SuSE Linux is expanding its efforts to attract consumer-desktop users through a distribution deal with low-cost PC maker Microtel Computer Systems and retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, which will see PCs preloaded with SuSE Linux 8.2 sold on Walmart.com.

Although SuSE is a German company, the deal will be restricted to the United States, where Wal-Mart is based. Wal-Mart began shaking up the PC industry last year by offering a line of PCs assembled by Microtel without an operating system installed.

The retailer subsequently began offering the same PCs configured with Lindows, a version of Linux tweaked to allow it to run common Windows applications. The move was seen as a milestone for public acceptance of Linux, which has been frequently criticized for being too complex for the average PC user. Wal-Mart later added a line of Mandrake Linux-based PCs.

SuSE has also been working on making Linux easier for nontechnical users. Last month the company unveiled a version of its Enterprise Server called SuSE Linux Desktop, outfitted for corporate desktops with the ability to run Windows software and communicate with Windows networks.

SuSE 8.2 is aimed at the end-user market but includes many of the same features. SuSE also competes with dominant Linux distributor Red Hat in the market for Linux servers.

Prices for the SuSE-based PCs will start at $298 (190 British pounds)--not the lowest for Microtel, which has sold PCs for as little as $199. It is preloaded with the Microsoft Office-compatible OpenOffice.org; Web browsers Mozilla, Netscape Navigator and Konqueror; and other software for image processing, multimedia and gaming.


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"This new offering reflects the growing demand for affordable and innovative Linux systems and the widespread adoption of open source," Holger Dyroff, SuSE's general manager of the Americas, said in a statement.

Wal-Mart typically offers Linux PCs for about $100 less than its cheapest Windows systems, but the discount may not be enough to entice consumers to learn an unfamiliar operating system, according to some analysts.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London.

 

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