Background: NTUC FairPrice is (for foreigners) something like Walmart in the States. And is pronounced "N-T-U-C" instead of "N-took" which some lecturers, in the world's 18th best university, would have it..

Today, NTUC girl happily carried home a copy of (faxed. don't ask) the latest NTUC promotion pamphlet - Cheap Laptops. I raised an eyebrow as she quipped, "..original price is $1,299 leh.. but I buy hor, staff price $1,188.. your brother say his laptop spoilt right? You think he'll want? It says while stocks last leh.."


I've been out of touch with hardware.. and should really be the last person you ask "got any lobang for cheap computer?" (my own PC is 0.3GHz and gasp: no cd writer).. but $1,299 does really sound pretty cheap, aye?

The specs: Acer, Intel Celeron 1.3GHz, 14.1" XGA, 40GB, 256 RAM, DVD/CDRW combo drive, 3 x USB 2.0 ports, ethernet port, 2.51kg... ok... not spectacular, but still cheap ya? Then something else caught my eye... "Linux Linpus Basic Edition". In shameful (my instincts doubted my favourite OS's market penetration) disbelief, I went to my bestest friend... only to find that there really is such a Linux distro [screenshot]. The laptop is bundled with Linux, not Windows. Kewl. And to describe my surprised look, I can only offer her a metaphor, "its like seeing HDB selling non-government housing.."

Anyways, I applaud NTUC for taking a step in selling cheap, accessible laptops that bundles Linux instead of Windows - hence offering consumers more choice. However, I'm not quite sure how ready are the target audience (2-degree separation from aunties?) to buying a laptop bundled with non-mainstream software: Linux, KDE desktop and Open Office. Or will the buyers think they're just buying "a computer"... and surprise their kids only to end up with "Ma, I can't use this for school! It don't have Dreamweaver..". Will poor auntie think she has bought the "wrong type" of laptop, embarrassed her kid in school.. and swear never to go near another one again?

Since the software is as important (if not more) as the hardware when using a laptop; Perhaps more emphasis should be put into highlighting the fact that Linux is bundled, rather than only the usual, casual, bullet point in the specs. And since "cheap" is the laptop's selling point, tell the consumer also: Why Use Linux?

Traditional pamphlets of laptop and PC specs gloss over the fact that it bundles Windows XP - how many of you read that? I glance, always assuming they'd bundle the latest Microsoft Windows).. and they can do that simply because that's what every other shop is carrying. Windows. And for the matter, what every layman consumer has been tuned to expect. Windows. Why waste advertising space describing the obvious?

But, now you're selling something different. A cheaper alternative. I would think it will be advisable to highlight the difference and even provide some free education too: Its not windows, but you can still do this.. this.. this.. using that.. that.. that.. (basically a friendlier version of this or this)

Anyways, now that you've read. If any auntie comes to you asking "the NTUC laptop can buy or not?", you'll know what to say :-D