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Intel Puts in Plug for Linux

November 25, 2004

Nov. 25–Intel is making a big push to help personal computer makers in China and India offer the Linux operating system on machines powered by the company’s chips.

The Santa Clara chip giant said many of its customers who develop low-cost, non-brand-name PCs want to offer the free open-source Linux operating system. Despite its close alliance with Microsoft and its Windows operating system, Intel does not want to be left out of the growing market in China and India for Linux-based computers.

Intel is offering its PC-maker customers a free software kit so they can quickly install Linux on their computers. The kit will help ensure Linux will run properly on Intel-based computers and work with printers and other devices.

Even though Linux was written by creator Linus Torvalds and his group of far-flung developers to be compatible with Intel chips, the kit will make the PCs more marketable if they can run Linux out of the box.

“You can’t just put an operating system on a PC and say we are ready,” said Intel spokesman Robert Manetta. “What this allows you to do is put together a fairly well-configured PC.”

Manetta said Intel wants its chips to be used by many operating systems, not just Microsoft’s Windows. Microsoft officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Manetta said educational institutions and governments in both China and India have shown great interest in Linux. “There is an opportunity for us.”

The kit, called the Intel Quick Start Kit for Linux, works with Linux software from Red Hat, Novell and Red Flag, a Chinese distributor.

Linux has become popular in developing countries because it can be downloaded for free over the Internet. Linux also is an attractive option in China, where piracy of Windows software remains a problem.

“There was a lot of pressure on China to reduce the piracy,” said Al Gillen, an analyst with market research firm IDC. “So China has leaned on the (computer) makers and asked them to be good corporate citizens and put an operating system on a box that is not illegal. So these vendors put Linux on a box because they can do it for free and it gets around the problem of using an unlicensed copy of Windows.”

However, Gillen noted that some computer buyers will later add an unlicensed copy of Windows to their machines.

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