PC vendor Everex is set to shake up the US market by offering a Linux desktop for just $198 (£99) with a $300 (£150) laptop to follow.
The energy-efficient desktop, TC2502 Green gPC, was introduced in Wal-Mart retail stores Wednesday. It runs on a 1.5GHz Via C7-D processor and comes with 512MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, a DVD player and an Ethernet port. It does not include a monitor. The laptops will come with 12.1-inch to 17-inch screens and run the GOS version of OS, built on Ubuntu Linux 7.10. It will include icons providing one-click access to websites like Facebook and multiple Google web applications.
The company also plans to introduce other mobile devices like ultramobile PCs, said Paul Kim, director of marketing for Everex, a US subsidiary of Taiwanese firm First International Computer.
The notebooks will be introduced in the first half of next year, Kim said. The company provided no additional details, other than saying the mobile devices will be competitively priced.
"The intent of GOS is to take [Linux] to the consumer and do what Steve Jobs did with Mac OS X - to take an alternative OS and package it for the consumer," said David Liu, founder of GOS.
Microsoft's Windows Vista OS has done a lot of damage to the low-end PC market, so there is a great opportunity for a smaller and leaner OS, Liu said. Linux has come a long way and could grab an audience in the low-end market, Liu said.
More than the OS, for the end user it's more about the ecosystem of applications that can work, Liu said. GOS bundles applications in a coherent way that makes the OS easy to use, he said.
However, most people looking to buy a $199 machine will not know Linux, said David Milman, founder and CEO of Rescuecom, a US firm providing computer repair and support services.
"I don't see Linux to the masses as anything more than a way to facilitate Internet access and computing," Milman said. Economically-minded consumers looking to buy an Internet appliance will find the $198 Linux desktop a reasonable machine, Milman said.
The Linux desktop doesn't spell the end of Windows, either, Milman said. "Many people calling Rescuecom [for support] don't know what an OS is," Milman said. People will try to load Office on the desktop, and when it doesn't load, they will be disappointed and return the machine. That's going to be a challenge for Wal-Mart."
Wal-Mart's decision to carry the PC could boost sales of Windows-based PCs by capturing some mindshare and increasing traffic to the PC sales area, said Brian Paterson, vice president of marketing for ASI Computer Technologies, a computer hardware distributor.
Compared to Windows PCs, previous attempts by Wal-Mart to sell low-cost Linux-based Lindows and Microtel PCs were failures, Milman said.
Everex studied the Lindows and Microtel PCs and is confident its $198 PC will succeed. GOS Linux brings familiar Google icons and applications to users, which earlier PCs didn't have, Everex's Kim said.
With its Google-friendly interface, this PC is a good test for Google OS, if rumours of one being under development is true, Paterson said. "It's a perfect way to launch [Google OS] in a mistake-OK world," Paterson said.
The Everex TC2502 Green gPC desktop will be available in about 600 stores on a test basis, according to Wal-Mart.