Computers running the Linux OS are continuing to advance into the consumer retail market, with the announcement this week that Micro Center will sell desktops and laptops running Linspire Inc.'s Linux OS.
"This is very big for Linux," Linspire Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kevin Carmony said in an interview. "People want the value and the security. It is a viable alternative. For half the people out there, Linux would work for them."
Micro Center, which is owned by Micro Electronics Inc. of Hilliard, Ohio, began considering selling hardware systems with Linux preinstalled after competitor Fry's Electronics offered Linux computer systems, Carmony said. A poll conducted by Micro Center showed that more than 75 percent of its customers are interested in Linux as an OS option, he said.
While other retailers sell computers with San Diego-based Linspire's software, Micro Center is the only vendor that is devoting space in each of its 19 stores to Linux and has staff members trained by Linspire, according to Carmony.
Micro Center is selling two Linspire desktops, according to its Web site. The PowerSpec 1405 retails for US$250 and features a Sempron processor from Advanced Micro Devices Inc., 128M bytes of RAM, a 40G-byte hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. The PowerSpec 1415 costs $300 and comes with a Sempron processor, 256M bytes of RAM, a 40G-byte hard drive and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. Neither system includes a monitor.
Laptops running Linspire were not listed on Micro Center's Web site, and a company representative did not respond to requests for further information.
While Linspire's CEO does not anticipate the consumer PC market switching from Windows hegemony to Linux domination, this distribution agreement expands Linux's presence in the consumer channel.
"Not only does the technology need to be great, but it needs to be in the channel," Carmony said. "This puts it in the channel. People need to be able to touch it, feel it, experience it. This is very important for Linux."
Carmony believes that a typical prospective Linspire user is someone looking to purchase a second or third PC or searching for a machine to use for basic e-mail, word processing and Internet surfing functions.
Dan Kusnetzky, IDC's vice president of system software research, said that while this retail agreement is not indicative of a larger trend in the channel, Linux works for consumers with less demanding computing needs.
"Suppliers offering Linux are looking to satisfy users with needs dedicated to certain purposes like Internet access or personal productivity -- low-end use," he said.
Linux currently has a 2.5 percent share of the operating system market, based on shipments, according to IDC's research. While IDC predicts that figure will to rise to 9 percent by 2008, the Windows operating system will still dominate the market.
Carmony, however, is optimistic that additional retailers will sell Linux machines.
"Fry's put pressure on Micro Center, Micro Center launched this, and this will put pressure on the Best Buys. The market will embrace this," he said.