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First Australian OEM ships preinstalled Linux PCs

Mar 31, 1999, 07:16 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Matthew Wright)

by Matthew Wright

Melbourne, Australia -- Linux Today's Matthew Wright caught up with Danny Jovica, National Sales Manager of Compu Centre Pty Ltd. This month, Compu Centre started selling Linux-based PCs. While many vendors have announced they are selling Linux PCs for corporate servers or bulk purchases, Compu Centre is selling Linux PCs over the counter to regular desktop users as well as corporate and educational Institutions.

LT: When did you start selling computers preinstalled with Linux?

Danny: We officially began selling Linux Workstations on the 4th of March 1999.

LT: Why did you choose Red Hat's distribution? What influenced this decision?

Danny: The main reason for the choice of Red Hat over the other distributions is the ease of use and simple installation process and overall stability.

LT: Will you consider using other distributions in the future?

Danny: Compu Centre will evaluate the various distributions on their merits, for example we are currently looking at the Mandrake release.

LT: What influenced Compu Centre to take the leap into preinstalling Linux on workstations?

Danny: I have been personally monitoring the evolution of Linux over the last few years. In January, I decided to have a closer look at the OS, so I installed Red Hat 5.2 and was impressed with the ease of installation.

I investigated further with the release of XFree86-3.3.3.1 and the latest Kernel 2.2. I found Linux had support for the latest AGP graphics cards and most sound cards.

We took a look at Star Office and found it amazingly compatible with the MS file formats, which was a key factor as the Windows world wants to know they can still transfer documents and access their existing MS-based files.

I then took a look at the KDE desktop, with it's ease of use and configuration potential (i.e., placing a DOS floppy icon on the screen for end users to access Windows/DOS formated floppy disks, the ability to place another Windows drive icon on the screen for end users to access DOS/Windows partitions) and found Linux had arrived as a viable desktop alternative to MS.

Add to this the mass of quality software the customer receives and the choice was made that Linux was ready for the desktop.

....and the obvious fact, that Linux in the coming months, with the development of things such as GNOME and Enlightenment, was only going to get better, made the decision even easier.

LT: You're selling workstations. Does this mean your company thinks Linux is ready for the desktop?

Danny: Linux is ready for the desktop and we are currently selling PCs to new end users. And the feedback to date has been great. The way we set up the machine before hand makes all the difference.

We totally pre-configure the machines -- from setting up X-Windows, KDE, and creating desktop icons to access DOS floppies, to setting up the Internet, printers, software, themes, multimedia, etc. As a result of the extra effort, the customer receives a machine which is essentially equivalent in features and stability to the MS Alternative minus the MS price tag.

LT: How do you think this decision may affect your position in the Australian marketplace?

Danny: We see the Linux market potential as huge, and obviously this decision will strengthen both our position in the marketplace as well as that of Linux. Traditionally, Compu Centre has led the industry with decisions to provide innovative products and, as a result, has forced our competitors to follow. This is no different. Within the year, you will find many OEMs taking on linux.

LT: Why did you choose to bundle KDE as the window manager and desktop?

Danny: KDE provides the greatest flexibility, ease of use, and end user comfort. It provides the easiest transition from Microsoft to Linux. We have display systems set up in the showroom, and customers rarely pick that they're not on an MS operating System. To the Linux faithful, that may bring horror and contempt. But to the majority of end users, that is a major priority.

LT: Will you consider bundling GNOME in the future?

Danny: Yes, we have had a look at GNOME already, and at this stage it still has a long way to go to catch up to KDE desktop.

LT: If VA Research, the heavyweight OEM from the US, moves into the Australian market, do you expect this to affect your business? Do you think getting in before these big players may help you get a real foothold in the marketplace?

Danny: In the computer industry, the whole name of the game is to stay one step ahead of the competition. And at this stage, Compu Centre is making a number of strategic decisions to position ourselves in the marketplace.

LT: Thanks for the opportunity to interview you.

Danny: I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to be involved with Linux Today.