Hunting the Wily HP Linux Laptop

The Quarry wrote on 3 August 2004:
HP launches Linux-based notebook

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - In a sign the Linux operating system may be gaining traction beyond servers and other back-room systems, Hewlett-Packard Co. said Tuesday it will be the first major PC maker to ship a business notebook computer pre-installed with the open-source software. ...

The HP notebook is available in North America through HP's online store and to international customers on request. Fink said the launch is a test "so that we can see the take up we get for this particular product."

The Hunt

One good test of whether a company is serious about selling a Linux laptop is to try ordering one from their online store. Go try it yourself now! As you look for the page that lets you order a Linux laptop from HP, keep track of how many mouse clicks it takes, and how long it takes.

My Results

I tried this myself in late August 2004. Which of the following three scenarios do you think most closely describes my shopping experience?

Scenario 1: What Shoppers Would Like

  1. In a search engine, or the search box on HP's web site, search for hp linux laptop. The first hit that comes back is the "customize it" page that lets you customize and purchase the HP Linux Laptop.
Total clicks: 2
Total time: under 1 minute
Likelihood: in your dreams.

Scenario 2: What the HP Webmaster must have wanted users to do

  1. Go to
  2. Search for "linux"
  3. Click on first hit, "Learn about Linux supported systems and solutions"
  4. Click on "Platforms and Printers"
  5. Scroll down and click on "Desktops/Notebooks"
  6. click on "HP Compaq Notebooks"
  7. Scroll down and see that one notebook has a check mark, click on that one
  8. Click on "buy online"
Total clicks: 8
Number of times had to scroll down a page: 2
Total time: 5 minutes (including wrong turns)
Likelihood: maybe, if you're lucky. I wasn't.

Scenario 3: painful shopping experience

  1. Go to
  2. In "Search HP" box, type "linux laptop"
  3. No laptop found. Go back to main page.
  4. Click on "Notebooks and Tablet PCs".
  5. Click on first link under "Home and Home Office", namely "HP Pavillion Notebook PCs" This takes you to
  6. In Search box, type "linux". No hits at all. Say to self "Oh, seems HP doesn't actually offer any Linux systems for sale."
  7. Give up on, go to, search for "HP linux laptop".

    First result at top (sponsored) is

    Hp Laptop Free Shipping on orders over $250 Official HP Store
    Say to self "But I already checked there, and they don't have any."
  8. Then remember (or see in one of the summaries) that the model number of the new HP linux laptop is nx5000. Go to and search for that model. No dice. So it seems the NX5000 is not available for purchase online at HP's official store.
  9. Just in case, though, go back to and search for "nx5000". Miracle of miracles, it's there.
  10. Click on "product overview",
  11. Click on the big red "Configure and Buy" button.
  12. That brought me to a page that didn't mention Linux at all, but did have a "Customize" button. So I clicked that.
  13. That brought me to a page which let you customize some things, but not the operating system, which was fixed at "Microsoft Windows XP Professional". This made me think "Oh, you have to talk to a fancy salesperson and special order the Linux version".
  14. Dejectedly noodle around on the HP site for another ten minutes.
  15. Notice that the nx5000 product overview page has *more than one* customize button - it has five! They're all labelled "HP Compaq Business Notebook nx5000" and differ only in speed and size of RAM and hard drive.
  16. Click on second "Customize" button. No dice, it doesn't let you choose Linux.
  17. Go back.
  18. Click on third "Customize" button. No dice, it doesn't let you choose Linux.
  19. Go back.
  20. Click on fourth "Customize" button. No dice, it doesn't let you choose Linux.
  21. Go back.
  22. Click on fifth "Customize" button. Bingo!
Total time: about half an hour.
Number of clicks: 20 to 50
Likelihood: All too likely. This was pretty close to my real experience.

Other Reports

Martin B. wrote:
lol, before reading the page to the end i tried looking first, and i actually managed to get the first 6 steps in scenario 2. then i missed that checkmark as an indication of being the one that is sold with linux and so i got lost instead.

no soup for me.

An HP exec wrote:

Thanks for the feedback, I've forwarded the URL to folks who hopefully know how to get the situation improved.

Room for Improvement

Ordering that Linux laptop from HP was almost impossible for me. If I wasn't determined, I would have given up several times. If the shopping experience is any guide, HP's experiment in selling Linux laptops will fail miserably because nobody will be able to figure out how to order one!

Here are some suggestions for HP:

If HP can implement even a few of those suggestions, their linux laptop experiment might go a little smoother.

Update: HP Thinks It Got The Marketing Wrong

On 16 Mar 2007, ZDNet UK reported in "Top five PC manufacturers fail naked PC test" that it was unable to purchase PCs without Windows from any of the five major PC vendors -- even the three that claim to sell them. HP was quoted, however, as being interested in having another go at selling a Linux PC:
"We carried out a test marketing exercise and made Linux PCs available to users," explained Peter Murray, director of enterprise server and storage at HP. "It was disappointing and we had very little interest. We looked at the exercise and we think we may have got the marketing wrong so we are trying it again."

Last Change 16 Mar 2007
(C) Dan Kegel

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