Wal-Mart trims prices of Linux-based PCs

The retailer offers a wider selection of new desktop PCs from Microtel Computer Systems, both with and without LindowsOS.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
2 min read
Wal-Mart is rolling back prices on Linux PCs.

The price-conscious retailer is offering, via its Web site, a wider selection of new desktop PCs from Microtel Computer Systems, both with and without the Linux-based LindowsOS.

The new PCs start at $299 and include a preinstalled copy of LindowsOS, a version of the open-source operating system that sports a graphical user interface and the ability to run Windows applications, according to its manufacturer.

The price rollback comes as brand-name computer makers including Hewlett-Packard and Sony are poised to begin aggressive discounting of their own in order to sweep out high retail inventories of PCs.

Wal-Mart caused a splash earlier in the year when it first began offering the Microtel PCs without an operating system, via the Walmart.com site. The retailer said at the time that it wanted to give its customers who had no interest in Microsoft's Windows the choice to load their own operating system.

Buyers can still get a number of new Microtel desktops, starting with one that has a 1GHz Duron processor from Advanced Micro Devices, without an operating system via Walmart.com.

However, the lowest-priced PC on the site is the $299 SYSMAR701 desktop. It features an 850MHz Duron, 128MB of RAM, a 10GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive as well as a preloaded copy of LindowsOS. It does not include a monitor or floppy drive.

A Microtel desktop, which is closer to the typical brand-name desktop configurations seen at retail nowadays, sells for $399 without a monitor. This SYSMAR703 includes a 1.3GHz Intel Celeron system with 128MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive and LindowsOS. It does not include a monitor or floppy drive.

In keeping with Wal-Mart's mantra, the Microtel desktops PCs are priced lower than the competition, even besting the low-price leader among the industry's brand-name, Emachines.

Adding a 17-inch monitor, priced at $128, to the 1.3GHz Celeron SYSMAR703 desktop makes for a computer package that costs $527. To beat that price, one would have to purchase Emachines' entry-level T1140 desktop. It includes a 1.1GHz Celeron, 20GB hard drive, 17-inch monitor, CD-ROM and a copy of Windows XP for $519 after rebates.

To match the SYSMAR703's processor speed and hard-drive size, a prospective buyer must step up to Emachines' T1150 desktop, which costs $619 after rebates.

The Emachines model includes a CD-rewritable drive for the $619 price. But Microtel also offers the $499 SYSMAR705 ($627 with a 17-inch monitor) with a 1.3GHz Celeron processor and a CD-RW. But the Microtel machine again bests Emachines by offering 256MB of RAM to the T1150's 128MB.

Walmart.com offers a total of 25 Microtel desktops with Athlon, Duron, Celeron and Pentium 4 processors, including eight machines with LindowsOS preloaded and 13 without an operating system.