I’m boggled that Fedora, OpenSuse, and Ubuntu, all of whom have open or semi-open build systems now, are not actively seeking out Emperor and companies like Emperor, and helping them ship distros that are as close to upstream- and hence most supportable- for everyone. Obviously it is in RH, Canonical, and Novell’s interests to actively pursue Big Enterprise Fish like HP and Dell. But I’m really surprised that the communities around these distros haven’t sought out the smaller, and potentially growing, companies that are offering computers with Linux pre-installed.
Sounds exactly right to me. I’ve been thinking something similar for awhile, but as the post title suggests, focused on hardware vendors. Tons of them compete to sell Linux servers at the very low and very high ends and everything inbetween, but if you want a pre-installed Linux laptop you need to pay a hefty premium for slightly out of date hardware from someone like Emperor Linux. It seems like there’s an opportunity for a hardware vendor to sell a line of Linux laptops that aren’t merely repurposed Windows machines. It has seemed like this for a something like a decade though, and as far as I know HP and a couple others have only tentatively and temporarily offered a few lame configurations.
So I’d like to see a hardware startup (or division of an existing company) sell a line of laptops designed for Linux, where everything “just works” just as it does on Macs, and for the same reasons — limited set of hardware to support, work on the software until it “just works” on that hardware. There’s probably even some opportunity for Apple-like proprietary control over some aspects of the hardware. Which reminds me, what legal barriers, if any, would someone who wants to manufacture the OLPC design face? There is discussion of a commercial subsidiary for the project:
The idea is that a commercial subsidiary could manufacture and sell a variation of the OLPC in the developed world. These units would be marked up so that there would be a significant profit which can be plowed into providing more units in countries who cannot afford the full cost of one million machines.
The discussions around this have talked about a retail price of 3× the cost price of the units.
In any case Villa is right, distributions should be jumping to support hardware vendors, both the mundane and innovative sorts. Which Red Hat/Fedora is doing in the case of OLPC.
Update 20060926: In comments below Villa points out system76, which approaches what I want, excpet that their prices are mediocre and they don’t offer high resolution displays, which I will never do without again. David points out olpcnews.com, which looks like reasonable independent reporting on OLPC. I asked on the OLPC wiki about other manufacturers’ use of the design.