Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Dec 04, 2002
Linux finds favour with PC makers
BANGALORE, Dec 3
IS freeware coming into fashion or are there deeper market forces at work? It is hard to tell. Over the last three to six months, a number of OEMs have been shipping Linux- bundled desktops, so far exclusively a Microsoft domain.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) has been aggressively advertising its Compaq Business PCs bundled with Linux, and the newer players in the market x LG Electronics and BPL Telecom x have joined the trend. The official version from vendors is that the Linux OS makes the machines cheaper, freeware is more flexible, and offers more features.
"There is a growing awareness of Linux, and freeware in general, and more applications are being developed around the Linux OS. The availability of Sun's Star Office, which is equivalent to MS Office, also makes Linux an attractive option," the HP country Manager, Consumer Desktops, Mr P. V. Viswanath, told Business Line.
The other not-so-obvious version says that vendors' compulsions are different. An industry source, who wished to remain anonymous, said vendors were required to ship machines with an OS. Microsoft prices were "prohibitive", but vendors had to pay for it as they went through "official channels". An alternative is to bundle Linux, bringing down prices by Rs 7000-8000 and sell them to resellers. The resellers who know how to "manage customers" do the "rest of the trick".
This way, the vendor is free of legal hassles with Microsoft while the user gets a Microsoft PC at significantly lower rates.
According to him, it is not customer demand that is driving bundling of Linux. "In most cases, dealers install software of the customer's choice during installation."
"Finally, 90 per cent of users do not use Linux," he said. "This is what is happening in reality." A dealer observed that users wanted both Linux and Microsoft on their machines. "We partition the disk and add XP home if they want it, because people want a mix", he said.
Above all, it is the price factor that is driving the movement, say vendors. According to HP, its Linux offering was made in response to customer requests, especially from the education and developer community. In the case of LG, the push came from the company rather than customers, said LG's DGM Sales and Marketing, Mr R. Manikantan. "We always try to create market where there is none." However, now, "users are ready to accept a change," he observed. Noting that Linux usage globally was around 5 per cent and was predicted to go up to 10 per cent this year, he said that India could be expected to follow the same trend.
"BPL and LG, being consumer electronic companies, are targeting the home and SOHO segments, while HP is also looking at the business segment. Linux is not a "major focus", Mr Viswanath said and the choice of the operating system is "left to the consumer".
Other vendors are expected to bundle Linux too. IBM has not yet launched Linux PCs but said that it would comment "at the right time". Wipro does not bundle Linux with its PCs.
Cost-effectiveness, a motivation
LINUX, the free software, is finding increased acceptance among enterprises worldwide, as it is cost effective and easy to maintain.
Usage of Linux now varies from complex to mission critical applications and is broadening across the sector, said officials of HP and IBM at the inaugural of Linux Bangalore/2002, the three-day second annual National Linux Conference.
Organised by Bangalore Linux Users Group, the event showcases latest technologies in Linux and Open source, and has drawn participation from all over India. The Union Ministry of Information Technology, HP-India Software Operations and IBM are sponsoring it.
"Linux is slowly and steadily taking over complex applications and with the independent solution vendors (ISVs) getting motivated, the shift to Linux is gaining momentum among corporates," said Mr Vempati Subrahmanyam, Director, HPISO. In his keynote address, he said Linux is spreading everywhere and is used in hand-helds to mobile systems and printers etc.
HP, which has a strong UNIX background, finds affinity to Linux. It company is betting heavily on Linux and Open source, and has already come out with a range of product that support Linux, he said. HP is leading the worldwide Linux market, with a share of nearly 33 per cent in 2001, he said.
Citing the example of Amazon.com, which runs on Linux, Mr Subramanyam said the switchover to Linux has helped Amazon.com to save $17 million in one quarter by the reduced computing costs.
In India, HP has recently come out with Linux-based PCs which costs less compared to PCs running on Microsoft software. ``We are thus passing on the benefits of the open-source back into the community,'' he said.
On the HP's Linux strategy, Mr Subrahmanyam said it is exploring possibilities to work with Independent Solution Vendors (ISVs). Local language computing is key to spread IT awareness and HP is supporting the Indic Computing Forum in this regard.
He urged the developers to come out with Linux support for local languages. "Free world is possible only if we have a choice, and the choice has to come from Linux." Linux provides opportunity to make technology affordable to common man, he added.
Ms Kalpana Margabandhu, General Manager, IBM, said Linux is being developed in a structured manner and is of hiqh quality, secure and stable. It is finding applicability in enterprises in verticals ranging from pharma and life sciences to retail, travel and transport, government, academics, IPSs, infrastructure, and banking and financial services, she said.
IBM is betting on accelerating Linux more into mainstream and emerging markets, she said adding that the company has set up a separate organisation to work on Linux.
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