Thanks to an expanded partnership with Novell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. is claiming to be the only major IT vendor to provide Linux systems from the desktop to the datacenter.

The two companies, which already sell Linux on servers, announced Wednesday at Novell’s BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City that they would work together to sell notebook and desktop PCs loaded with Linux.

Large enterprises continue to invest in the open-source operating system on the server, but Linux’s adoption on the desktop, where it competes with Microsoft Corp.’s Windows, has been much slower. Some Linux enthusiasts say 2004 could be a breakthrough year for Linux on the desktop, but others are skeptical.

HP’s extended partnership with Novell comes in response to enterprise demand for Linux on the desktop, said Martin Fink, vice president of Linux, at HP.

“A number of very large enterprise customers are asking, ‘What is the opportunity for Linux clients on our desktops?’” Fink said. But “I don’t have a Fortune 50 CIO wanting to deploy tomorrow,” he added. “They want to kick the tires, test it out.”

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