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HP releases its first Linux-powered laptop
Apr. 09, 2008

At the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit at the University of Texas Supercomputing Center April 8, Hewlett-Packard announced the release of its first Linux-powered computer to be sold in the United States, the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC running Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 Service Pack 1.

HP was expected to offer a Linux desktop, and now it has finally done so. It's not, however, the Linux desktop that many users expected. Instead of being a general-purpose consumer system or business PC, the Mini-Note is meant for the education market.

Chris Sieger, director of IT Services for Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia, said in a statement, "HP listened to our needs and now is delivering a product designed by education for education."

It may sound odd for HP to take its first step into Linux by way of education, but there is money to be made in the education vertical. Lenovo Director of Software Strategy Debra Kobs-Fortner said, for example, that Lenovo had seen its best business so far for its Linux-powered ThinkPads in the American education market.

The HP Mini is another UMPC (Ultramobile PC). Unlike Asustek Computer's Eee PC and Everex's CloudBook, the HP Mini is the first UMPC to arrive from a top-tier system vendor.

Like the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child)'s XO Laptop and Intel's Classmate PC, the HP Mini is designed for the wear and tear of use by children. The 2.5-pound UMPC comes with an anodized aluminum shell that's designed to be sturdy. It also comes with "HP DuraKeys," a clear damage-resistant keyboard coating designed to help prevent chocolate-milk-induced system failures. It also includes the HP 3D DriveGuard, which uses a three-axis digital accelerometer chip to shut down the hard drive if it's dropped (or thrown, or kicked).

Besides the usual array of SLED software goodies, the system also includes educational software. Jim Mann, an HP technology strategist, credited Novell with putting together an excellent collection of educational software.

The PC itself comes in two different versions. Both models are powered by a 1.6GHz Via C7 processor. They also both have 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and an 8.9-inch display with 1280 by 768 resolution. They each also include a pair of USB ports and Ethernet port. The cheaper model, the one that's aimed directly at the education market, comes with 1GB of memory and a 120GB hard drive. This system, which should be available by the end of April, will retail for $499. The higher-end system comes with 2GB, a faster 120GB hard drive and a larger six-cell battery. This system will be available by May and list for $799, HP said.

-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

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