Wal-Mart Offers $498 Linux Laptop

Wal-Mart Offers $498 Linux Laptop (Enterprise-Linux)

Retail giant Wal-Mart Latest News about Wal-Mart has taken the wraps off a bare-bones, US$498 Linux Latest News about Linux notebook that, while not exactly a stocking-stuffer, provides basic computing Latest News about computing at a price that is tough to beat.

The Balance laptop Latest News about laptop machine runs the Linspire 4.5 operating system, and comes equipped for either dial-up or broadband Latest News about Broadband Internet access, and includes the OpenOffice Microsoft-compatible applications suite. The Internet package also includes e-mail with spam blockers, browser and built-in firewall. “Hot keys” on the keyboard provide one-touch access to e-mail and the Internet. The specs include a 1 GHz processorRelevant Products/Services from AMD, 128 MB RAM that is expandable up to 512 MB using the included SODIMM slot, and a 14-inch LCD screen.

Wal-Mart and Linspire contend that the Balance notebook is the lowest-priced laptop currently on the market to include a complete operating system and office suite. As a Linux machine, the operating system is immune to security Latest News about Security threats targeting Windows, the companies add.

Considering that I paid only $200 more for three times the machine, the appeal of this one is hard to fathom. Even for the truly cash strapped, one’s $500 would be better spent on a slighty used machine. Of course, people still use AOL, too, so I’m sure Wal-Mart will sell plenty.

Update: Commenter Jeremy notes that the Linux aspect of this is problematic as well. Agreed. The only people likely interested in a non-Windows or Apple machine are tech geeks. And tech geeks don’t want underpowered computers with too little RAM.

Wizbang’s Paul, though, looks on the bright side:

Imagine if you can, a $498 laptop computer. It’s not top of the line to be sure but it is what was top of the line just about 2 years ago and it is brand new and comes with a 1 year warrantee.

Now imagine it comes pre-loaded with Office so you can use all your Microsoft Word and Excel files without paying extra for software. Now imagine it comes with almost 2000 other pieces of (virus free) software you can install with no grief.

You can’t map the human genome with this laptop, but for surfing, sending mail, typing reports and keeping spreadsheets, it is just fine.

True. Of course, most of us have access to copies of Office already, don’t want 2000 pieces of crappy software installed, and are willing to pay another couple hundred to get serious computing power. Still, the AOL model keeps coming to mind: People willing to pay extra for a crappy interface and slow connectivity in exchange for a comfort level.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jeremy says:

    Linux? No thanks.

  2. Rodney Dill says:

    Glass half full? Glass half empty?

    (I always liked Glass overdesigned by 100%)

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    That’s not new. Last year Walmart had a $200 Linux machine and a $300 Linux machine. I installed a $1540 Linux server in a client’s office a couple of weeks ago.

  4. Paul says:

    What is lost in the discussion is that there is finally a true alternative for the masses. Plus this gives the lowend of the lowend a way to buy a laptop on layaway.

    There is more to it than meets the eye.

    If you (are a non tech savvy buyer and you) buy a used Windows box you are probably going to have more heart-ache than it is worth. Odds are it comes to you so loaded with spyware it will not be usable anyway.

    This is a clean machine.

  5. Rodney Dill says:

    I tend to agree with you Paul, but someone not savvy is going to have a system full of spyware in very short order anyway.

  6. Kent says:

    Still, the AOL model keeps coming to mind: People willing to pay extra for a crappy interface and slow connectivity in exchange for a comfort level.

    Curiously, that’s how I’d describe Windows, which my wife insists on for our home computer. I use Linux at work and love it.

  7. Attila Girl says:

    I wonder whether this is really being marketed as a second computer–the one to take home with you, leaving your main one at the office. Or the one for your kid.

    I also imagine being virus-resistant is worth something to people: after all, that’s one of the advantages to having a Mac. Which costs more than $500.