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HP launches Linux laptop in Thailand for $450

Hewlett-Packard has begun selling inexpensive, Linux-based notebooks in Thailand, but not the UK.

The move underscores the open-source platform's growing popularity in emerging markets.

The notebooks are being sold as part of a push by Thailand's Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) ministry to offer the public affordable PCs.

The PCs come with a preloaded Linux operating system (OS) and went on sale last week for $450 (£276).

The notebooks were made to fit certain feature and price requirements set by the ministry, the representative said, which could help explain HP's choice to install a Linux OS.

Experts warned that the use of Linux may bring down the price of the computers, but it could create support issues. However, the ministry has agreed to take on service and support issues related to the PCs.

The arrangement appears to be successful. The Bangkok Post reported on its website this week that demand for the PCs has been high. The Thai daily reported that the ministry is negotiating with other local and international suppliers to produce more PCs because it feared that HP would be unable to keep up with the demand.

Dell Thailand and the Association of Thai Computer Manufacturers have expressed interest, the Post reported.

Bryan Ma, senior research manager with IDC for the Asia-Pacific region, said that the PCs could pose a threat to Microsoft for two reasons. Not only does HP's decision to preload Linux, allow customers to avoid the cost of a licence for Microsoft's Windows operating system, with software piracy rampant in Thailand users could easily purchase the low-cost PCs and install pirated Windows software on them.

"This could make Microsoft tremble in its boots," Ma said. "What you've got is a blank canvas in which the user can paint any colour he wishes, whether that's officially licensed Microsoft software or pirated software."


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