Intel more active in desktop Linux

Company begins effort to make it easier for sales partners in China, India to sell desktop computers running Linux.

Intel has begun an effort to make it easier for sales partners in China and India to sell desktop computers running Linux, starting a more active phase in the company's help with the open-source operating system.

Intel has made substantial efforts to boost Linux, which most often runs on computers using the company's processors, but those efforts have been largely confined to powerful networked computers called servers. The chipmaker warmed up to desktop PC makers when partners in the Asian countries started requesting more help with desktop Linux, company spokesman Scott McLaughlin said.

Now when Intel ships the components out of which companies assemble PCs--often called "white box" systems because they're from companies with little-known brand names--it will include a kit of software and instructions to ease Linux installation. It's a strategy Intel has used for years with Windows.

The kit includes driver software, which enables use of specific hardware features; scripts to quickly install software that has been validated to work with various versions of Linux; and a program called the Application Version Compliance Tool that checks to make sure programs are compatible with those Linux versions and Intel electronics.

The kit supports three versions of Linux--Red Hat Desktop, Novell Linux Desktop 9 and Red Flag Desktop 4.1--and will support Linux from the China Standard Software later, Intel said. Sun Microsystems inked a deal in 2003 under which the China Standard Software will sell Sun's Linux desktop software, but Intel couldn't say if this was the version of Linux it would support.

On desktop computers, where Microsoft is dominant, Linux faces much higher barriers than in the server market, where Linux's similarity to well-established Unix makes it a natural fit. But particularly in Asia, Linux is catching on, and Microsoft has lowered prices in several emerging markets.

Linux has at times been something of an afterthought for Intel. For example, when it released Centrino components, which mated wireless networking with an Intel processor, the technology came with full support for Windows. Linux support for Centrino did show up a year later, though Intel released prototype software that only now has begun arriving in test versions of Linux.

Intel also said it will open four Linux development centers to help software companies build PC applications for Linux computers. The Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission, established by the Beijing municipal government, will help run a center in that city; the Guangdong Linux Technology Service Center will help run one in Guangdong, China; the Indian Institute of Technology will help run one in Mumbai; and Stefanini Consultoria will help run one in Brazil.

In addition, Intel and the city of Xi'an in China signed a preliminary agreement in September to adopt computers using Linux and Intel components. Intel plans to help with testing, validation and management.

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