Wal-Mart teams up with Sun on Linux PCs

Wal-Mart Stores has begun selling PCs manufactured by Microtel Computer Systems which feature Sun Microsystems' alternative...

Wal-Mart Stores has begun selling PCs manufactured by Microtel Computer Systems which feature Sun Microsystems' alternative operating system based on Linux and its StarOffice productivity software.

Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS) is available in Microtel PCs with processors from both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

The systems sell on Walmart.com at prices ranging from $298 (£161) to $798, depending on the configuration.

The PCs are designed for business customers who are looking to move away from Microsoft's Windows operating system to an alternative product without spending a lot of time and money on retraining costs for their employees, said Peder Ulander, director of marketing for desktop solutions at Sun.

JDS is based on SuSE Linux's distribution of the open-source operating system, but comes with the Gnome desktop environment to give users a familiar icon-based experience, Ulander said.

It also features the StarOffice software suite of word processing and spreadsheet software, the Mozilla web browser, the Evolution e-mail and calendar software from Ximian and photo-editing software.

Sun introduced JDS last year, and is starting to roll it out with partners such as Microtel and Wal-Mart. Several other partners have been signed around the world.

Individual users can also purchase the operating system for $50.

Sun is trying to reach into different markets outside of its traditional base of large corporate customers.  While its primary business remains servers, the company has been searching for additional sources of revenue as its server business has declined in the past few years, said Ulander.

There has not been much of a market for alternative desktop operating systems since Windows took over the market in the 1990s, but that is starting to change, he said.

Users in different parts of the world are increasingly looking to Linux as a cheaper alternative to Windows, and US users are slowly beginning to warm up to Linux.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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