Last week we reported that Wal-mart in the US has just started selling $200 (£96) Linux PCs in its stores. The Everex TC2502 gPC features a custom distribution of Ubuntu Linux, and is touted as the "first mass-market $200 desktop computer" by its manufacturer.
Linux is hassle for retailers
Mike Saunders from our sister title Linux Format magazine thinks that it'll be a while before we see such bargains become widespread in the UK.
"Wal-Mart has sold this kind of system before, so it has plenty of experience selling Linux systems to home users and families," he said.
"But that's a tough job, they've got to make it clear that these aren't Windows boxes. Otherwise Mommy, Daddy and little Johnny will be driving back to the store to complain when eGreeting Card Maker XP doesn't work on it.
"Then there's the support aspect. When first-time Linux users start poking around inside the strange and exotic OS, and something goes wrong, Wal-Mart employees need to know how to handle complaints. If a program stops working, is that a fault with the PC, a fault with Linux, or something that the user has fiddled with to breaking point?"
Windows too pricey
Saunders says that while people also want cheap PCs in the UK, it's nowhere near as simple as just stacking them on the shelves and watching them fly out of the door. But he also thinks that eventually we'll see more cheap Linux systems on the market, like the £140 eSys Linux PC currently on sale at Tesco. The £219 Asus Eee has also been stirring up some interest.
"The Eee is nearing release to target this cheap market. But it's not just a case of chucking Linux boxes on the shelves. A store needs to back it up with the right kind of marketing, so as not to mislead customers, and support.
"PC World clearly doesn't want to commit to all this right now, but in time I'll wager that they will. PCs are astoundingly cheap now, and when the Microsoft OS eats up around 30 per cent of the overall cost, Linux is a very attractive alternative."