Linux PCs aimed at the consumer market will soon be available in the US under a deal signed between leading Linux distributor SuSE Linux and budget PC manufacturer Microtel.

The $298 PC will only be available online at Walmart.com, and only in the US. But the deal marks a clear push into Windows' undisputed territory as the consumer desktop PC. The PC will come with SuSE's 8.2 OS and will be pre-loaded with Open Office software, three open-source browsers (overkill?) and some image manipulation software.

The deal is an interesting extension to the current relationship between the US's biggest retailer Wal-Mart and Microtel. The two originally amazed the PC industry last year by striking a deal in which cheap PCs were offered without an operating system installed. Soon after that Wal-Mart start offering the PCs with Lindows installed - a version of Linux designed to compete with Windows.

It then put out another line of PCs with Mandrake (yet another Linux variant). Maybe it was inevitable that SuSE Linux would eventually appear.

The interesting thing about SuSE Linux, however, is the recent success it has had in the corporate and public sector market, most famously when Munich City Council moved to its brand of Linux. Previously Linux' success had mostly been in the server market.

Many commentators have foreseen a gradual creep into the consumer market as people become used to working with a different operating system at work and so want the same one at home. Plus, of course, the PC is cheaper because it's open source and doesn't come with Microsoft's Windows licence fee.

Presumably, Linux PCs will find their way over this side of the Atlantic soon and become widely available. When we spoke to likely distributors about this very situation last month (IBM, Dell, HP) all said they were playing a watching and waiting game.