A Linux-based computer from VA includes a year of hardware and software support that's available during business hours, but VA is following in the footsteps of other Linux companies in offering upgrades to premium support plans as well.
Selling support contracts can be a lucrative business for companies looking to make money off products that are legally required to be available at no cost. It's a key part of Red Hat's business plan, and startup LinuxCare has converted the idea into venture capital funding and a contract with Dell Computer.
Most other companies embracing Linux provide either their own software or their own hardware, and consequently have gone a different route. Red Hat, the dominant Linux seller, supports only its software, while hardware makers often pass the tough calls back to the original Linux developer.
Supporting Linux can be tricky because the open source software can be modified by anyone, including the user. However, even with proprietary operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, support can be complicated by the vast array of so-called third-party software that interacts with and complicates the workings of the original product.
VA announced today that people can buy round-the-clock support for the first year for an extra $3,595. Support for another three incidents after the first year of coverage can cost $995. "Commercial support" costs a lot more, with prices beginning at $21,995.