Everex to launch sub-$300 Linux notebooks next year

After introducing a $198 Linux desktop Wednesday, PC vendor Everex said it will bring Linux laptops under $300 to users next year.

The laptops will come with 12.1- to 17-in. screens and run the GOS version of the operating system, built on Ubuntu Linux 7.10. The platform will include icons that provide one-click access to Web sites like Facebook and multiple Google Web applications.

The company also plans to introduce other mobile devices, including ultramobile PCs, said Paul Kim, director of marketing at Everex, a U.S. subsidiary of Taiwanese firm First International Computer Inc.

The notebooks will be introduced in the first half of next year, Kim said. The company provided no additional details, other than to say that the mobile devices will be competitively priced.

The energy-efficient $198 Linux desktop from Everex, TC2502 Green gPC, was introduced in Wal-Mart stores Wednesday. It runs on a 1.5-GHz Via C7-D processor and comes with 512MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, a DVD player and an Ethernet port. It does not include a monitor.

"The intent of GOS is to take [Linux] to the consumer and do what Steve Jobs did with Mac OS X -- to take an alternative OS and package it for the consumer," said David Liu, founder of GOS.

Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system has done a lot of damage to the low-end PC market, so there is a great opportunity for a smaller and leaner OS, Liu said. Linux has come a long way and could grab an audience in the low-end market, he said.

More than the operating system, it's the ecosystem of applications that can work on it that's important to the end user, Liu said. GOS bundles applications in a coherent way that makes the OS easy to use, he said.

However, most people looking to buy a $199 machine will not know Linux, said David Milman, founder and CEO of Rescuecom Corp., a U.S. firm that provides computer repair and support services.

"I don't see Linux to the masses as anything more than a way to facilitate Internet access and computing," Milman said. Economically minded consumers looking to buy an Internet appliance will find the $198 Linux desktop a reasonable machine, Milman said.

The Linux desktop doesn't spell the end of Windows, either, Milman said. "Many people calling Rescuecom [for support] don't know what an OS is," Milman said. People will try to load Office on the desktop, and when it doesn't load, they will be disappointed and return the machine. That's going to be a challenge for Wal-Mart."

Wal-Mart's decision to carry the PC could boost sales of Windows-based PCs by capturing some mind share and increasing traffic to the PC sales area, said Brian Paterson, vice president of marketing at ASI Computer Technologies Inc., a computer hardware distributor.

Compared with Windows PCs, previous attempts by Wal-Mart to sell low-cost Linux-based Lindows and Microtel PCs were failures, Milman said.

Everex studied the Lindows and Microtel PCs and is confident its $198 PC will succeed. GOS Linux brings familiar Google icons and applications to users, which earlier PCs didn't have, Everex's Kim said.

With its Google-friendly interface, this PC is a good test for Google OS, if rumors of one being under development is true, Paterson said. "It's a perfect way to launch [Google OS] in a mistake-OK world," Paterson said.

The Everex TC2502 Green gPC desktop will be available in about 600 stores on a test basis, a Wal-Mart spokesperson said in an e-mail statement.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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