OS-free laptop draws interest

AUCKLAND (03/09/2004) - Dick Smith Electronics (NZ) Ltd.'s test marketing of a laptop sold without an operating system generated enough interest that the company has started placing the computers in its bigger stores.

Electronics buyer Chris Day won't give sales figures but says interest "exceeded our expectations". The laptop, featuring a low-heat Transmeta Crusoe processor, 256M bytes of RAM, DVD-ROM/CD-RW, 30G-byte hard drive and a 14.1-inch screen was offered to customers of Dick Smith's Web site for NZ$1,499 (US$1,010) including goods and services tax.

He hopes next week to decide whether to brand the computers with the Dick Smith name, and also whether to offer a branded desktop computer without an operating system. A forthcoming computer in the Samurai range will also be sold without an OS, he says.

Almost all retail computers sold today are bundled with a copy of Windows, but the buyers of the OS-free laptops are expected to either install Linux themselves or to transfer a copy of Windows from an older computer. Day says the company sells both Linux and Windows and is trying to provide its customers with a choice of software and hardware.

Dick Smith will be recommending the Mandrake distribution for customers who aren't familiar with Linux, says Day. The company will offer a four-disk CD set, including three Mandrake 9.2 install disks and a "live boot" CD, for about NZ$8. A collection of office productivity programs will sell for NZ$5, he says.

At that price, support will be limited to a basic installation -- the same support the company offers Windows users.

"We're not professing that we're going to be the be-all and end-all of support," Day says. "In the first instance we're going to try and involve the local community and other Linux users to help (customers) out."

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