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Shh!!! HP sneaks Linux in on new laptops


Except for Dell, the major PC vendors are reluctant to admit they actually sell and support Linux. For instance, HP supports Linux quite well on its servers but is very reluctant to support it on its desktops. They have trouble even admitting that they’re now shipping DeviceVM‘s instant-on Splashtop Linux on their new notebook lines.

HP had started quietly shipping Splashtop on its new business laptop, the HP ProBook 5310m. Curiously, HP is continuing to ship its Windows/Outlook-based QuickLook on the ProBook as well. Why would you bother with that, since Splashtop could support the full-featured Evolution e-mail client? You can also use Gmail or any other Web-based mail system with QuickWeb. Perhaps HP wants to stay on Microsoft good side. After all, that also would explain why HP has been so hesitant to make it easy for would-be buyers to get Novell’s SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 11 on HP desktops.

Nonetheless, QuickWeb is also going to be available on HP’s high-end consumer notebooks: the MacBook-like ENVY 13 and the ENVY 15, and the not-yet-shipping Windows 7 HP Mini 110 netbook model.

Buyers who want the Mini 110 should make sure they’re buying exactly what they want with this model. HP currently sells a version of the Mini 110 with Ubuntu Linux, which I recommend, and another version with XP. The 5310m, which isn’t available yet, will come with Windows 7 Starter Edition. While Windows 7 Starter Edition is no longer crippled by a three-application limit, it’s still easily the weakest member of the Windows 7 family.

QuickWeb is really just a subset of Splashtop. While HP could have offered a full Splashtop Linux desktop, they’ve elected to only offer the Web interface. Still, it’s a good Web browser. Not only does it boot up in 20 seconds or less, it can view and play multimedia files in such common formats as Adobe Flash, Adobe PDF documents, and MP3 music files.

While HP isn’t going to let you get the full Splashtop Linux experience, the Web version is quite impressive. I can see many users never actually using their laptops’ installed operating system. After all, with just some Linux and most of the Web, what else do you need?

A version of this story first appeared in ComputerWorld.

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