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IBM unveils Linux desktop in India

Big Blue launches a Linux PC in India--but unlike the Linux notebook unveiled by Hewlett-Packard in Thailand last month, it's no low-priced machine for the masses.

IBM has launched a Linux PC in India--but unlike the Linux notebook unveiled by Hewlett-Packard in Thailand last month, it's no low-priced machine for the masses.

Big Blue's move comes after HP began selling a laptop based on the open-source operating system as part of a Thai government drive to make a cheap "people's notebook" available to all.

It also follows a speech made last week by India's president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, in which he supported more widespread use of open-source operating systems.

IBM spokesman Vandana Rao said the new PC is the first Linux desktop from the company, though last month Big Blue said it would make Linux available by request on its ThinkCentre M50 desktop for large customers in North America.

"Linux is an integral part of IBM's corporate strategy, and we continue to back Linux as a clear business decision," Rao said.

Rao said the product is aimed at the large number of small and medium-size business and home offices in India's secondary cities.

The NetVista A30 is IBM's entry model desktop in the Asia-Pacific region and features an Intel Pentium 4 processor, a lower-cost integrated graphics chip and a CD-ROM drive instead of a DVD or CD-RW drive.

Despite the use of the open-source Linux operating system, which is cheaper to buy than a Microsoft Windows license, the IBM Linux PC will still be priced on the high side, at about 39,000 rupees ($850) including taxes, said a report in the news daily The Times of India.

IBM was unable to furnish more details about what sort of technical support would be given, the Linux distribution used or why the price was so high.

An IBM representative said the desktop is unlikely to be sold outside India, according to a report in The Australian daily The Sydney Morning Herald.

Analysts have said that major hardware makers have been cautious about introducing desktops loaded with Linux as it opens the doors to piracy--many buyers will want to overwrite the operating system with illegal copies of Windows.