Though it’s still not in a perfect state, the rapid pace of development in numerous areas of Linux promises a bright future, nonetheless.

Although Linux is growing meekly when it comes to end-user usage and interaction, the overall experience of using a Linux distribution has turned out to be a positive one for numerous beginners. In recent years, Linux has made advancements in leaps and bounds, which has led to its adoption by many corporate users as well as regular desktop users.

While Linux is continuing to slide along on its own, I believe it would get a huge boost if its gets backing of a major PC builder, possibly Dell, HP or the like. The good news for all Linux advocates is HP’s recent announcement to support Ubuntu Linux on selected models of its notebook computers. According to a news report by Heise Online, HP will officially support models nx6110, nc6120, nc6220, nc6230 and nc6000. We hear that every component in the aforementioned models including LAN, WAN, Modem, Sound, Infrared Link, Firewire, Bluetooth, Graphics Adapter, Battery Usage Meter, Suspend to Disk Function, Hotkeys and numerous other features will work right out of the box. Apparently, HP is determined to make certain models work 100 percent with Ubuntu.

While all of this sounds impressive, HP will not ship the notebook computers with Ubuntu initially, but rather with FreeDOS. Best of all, users will not be forced to purchase Windows licenses. According to the news report, HP has worked directly with Ubuntu to better accommodate specific notebook computers, which ensures overall compatibility. The users interested in Linux will have to order Ubuntu CDs directly from HP at no additional cost. As far as the technical support is concerned, HP will offer two options. The first option is free technical support via newsgroups and forums. The second option, however, is a paid plan. HP will offer support through Canonical, an official corporate sponsor of Ubuntu.

Though HP isn’t offering Linux in shipping laptops, I certainly believe that HP’s preliminary advancements towards support of Linux on notebook computers are commendable. A backing of a major OEM will certainly break the fear factor that many users have with anything new or different, especially when it comes to computers. Unfortunately, the picture is not all rosy. HP said it will not offer Linux based notebooks in the United States, which is a disappointment in itself. According to the company, the Ubuntu notebooks are reserved for selected parts of Europe, Africa and Middle East where Windows piracy rates are strikingly high.

I suppose it would be a safe assumption on my part to say that HP’s recent announcement is a bag of mixed emotions. While Linux users should rejoice in receiving corporate support, many of them will be let down by HP’s decision to exclude its United States customers. But HP still deserves praise for taking the first step in supporting Linux on laptops. Assuming that HP will advertise Ubuntu Linux heavily, Linux should not just be an operating system designed for the computer elite. It will certainly create awareness of operating systems in addition to Microsoft’s Windows. Knowing that Linux is gaining widespread promotion in various parts of the world, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get attention from developers and increase overall interest in Linux within the community.

Ultimately, I think Linux needed support from HP. The highly configured system designed especially for HP notebooks will definitely create curiosity among the less knowledgeable. While HP could do better in integrating Linux further in its product line, these early advancements aren’t too shallow either. It takes time for a company to offer something that doesn’t involve anything Microsoft; therefore, a caution on HP’s part is understandable. Needless to say, Linux is gaining momentum not only in the desktop area but also in the notebook sector.

What would be even more exciting for Linux is if other OEMs, similar to HP, took the same approach by partnering with selected distributions of consumer friendly Linux and started offering an alternative not only in third world regions, but also in the United States. In addition to that, support for Linux on the desktop side of things would be just as welcomed.

After all is said and done, I have to wonder if anyone from Redmond, Washington had any input towards HP’s decision to offer Linux to the “3rd World” and exclude the U.S. (the richest Windows market) from it’s Linux program. I would certainly like to believe not. Of course, we all love a good conspiracy theory now, don’t we?

By Gundeep Hora

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