More Linux desktops on the way

Entering a market that has attracted the likes of Sun and raised an alarm at Microsoft, Penguin Computing unveils a new desktop PC for businesses that runs on the open-source Linux OS.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
3 min read
Entering a market that has attracted the likes of Sun Microsystems and raised an alarm at Microsoft, Penguin Computing announced Thursday a new desktop PC for businesses that runs on the open-source Linux operating system.

The computer manufacturer, best known for its Linux servers and workstations,

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introduced the Niveus 1X Linux desktop, which offers a choice between Intel's Celeron and Pentium 4 processors. It is available now directly from Penguin for a price starting at about $700 without a monitor.

Penguin said that with the machine, it hopes to address a movement among some companies, educational institutions and government agencies to use Linux desktops, as opposed to desktops running Microsoft's proprietary Windows OS, in specific areas, such as business call centers. Sun Microsystems announced a similar move toward that market last August. Penguin plans to begin offering its Linux desktops in 2003.

Most brand-name PC makers offer Linux desktops and notebooks to their largest corporate customers, but it's often difficult for an individual or a smaller business to buy only one or two of the machines. The efforts by Penguin, Sun and others should solve that problem.

Meanwhile, new versions of Linux, such as Red Hat's version 8--the OS that is preinstalled on Penguin's Niveus 1X--have added new features and capabilities designed to make the OS easier to use on the desktop. A growing library of Linux-compatible software for desktops includes the Gnome desktop environment, Ximian's Evolution e-mail and calendar software and Sun's StarOffice office suite, to name a few.

Linux on the desktop has even gained enough attention of late to begin worrying Microsoft, which on Wednesday admitted that a large increase in desktop Linux usage could limit its growth in the future. Microsoft's Windows OS currently dominates the desktop PC market.

"In terms of growing the company...it would be difficult if Linux were to become a phenomenon on the desktop," John Connors, Microsoft's CFO, said in a Webcast from the Credit Suisse First Boston annual technology conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Pointing out that many of its existing customers have already implemented large numbers of Linux servers, Penguin says it makes sense they would explore Linux desktops as well.

"Our customers are just at the cusp of this transition from expensive and complex licensing schemes, flawed security and painstaking registration procedures to Linux-based workplace machines," Sam Ockman, Penguin CEO, said in a statement. Ockman was referring to several areas in which Microsoft has been criticized.

The Niveus 1X will start at $708 when configured with a 1.8GHz Intel Celeron chip, 128MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive and a CD-ROM. More richly configured versions of the machine will sell for $1,000 or more, the company said.

A Niveus with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4, 256MB of Double Data Rate SDRAM, an 80GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive and a network card, as well as a Viewsonic 17-inch monitor will sell for $1,249. Adding a 3.06GHz Pentium 4, 1GB of RAM, a 200GB hard drive and a CD burner brings the price up to nearly $3,000, according to Penguin's Web site.

Reuters contributed to this report.