zareason-ubuntu-netbookZaReason is preparing to expand its portfolio of Ubuntu systems -- including a new server and netbook, according to CEO Cathy Malmrose. But that's not all. US-based ZaReason also continues its push deeper into the European computer market.

I traded email with Malmrose about Ubuntu 9.04 and ZaReason's ongoing business strategy. Here's a look at our exchange:

WorksWithU: Ubuntu 9.04 -- we're about a month since the release's launch. How are customers reacting to the operating system? Are you seeing any trends or customer feedback?
: People have been generally pleased with 9.04. For most people, it was a mild improvement. We hear comments like, "Hey, they added a new theme" and "There's unified notification now." The improvements are the gentle background types that make the experience with Ubuntu better in a barely noticeable way. Looking long term, this is an ideal way to improve it -- gradually building in improvements.

We are seeing a small percentage of people having crashes with the Adobe Flash plugin, so we're keeping a close eye on updates for that.

WorksWithU: How is ZaReason's expansion into servers going?
: Next up will be a tower model in the very near future.

WorksWithU: How is your expansion into Europe going?
: I just wrote an article for OSBR which contained an interview with Belinda Lopez. (She's a great contact for international feedback.) She and others have confirmed what I have seen so far -- Europe has embraced F/LOSS far more openly and successfully than we have in the US. I am looking forward to EU expansion being the most enjoyable part of ZaReason's future.

To help this expansion, we spent a few weeks in Asia talking to OEMs. Hardware is a fascinating market and I am looking forward to seeing hardware builders working smarter in the future, especially in regards to higher quality design.

WorksWithU: Do you plan to introduce a netbook?
Malmrose: Yes, we'll have our own netbook soon. The question is whether to launch now with the current Atom platform or wait for the new Pine Trail.

Meet Partimus

WorksWithU: Shifting gears a little bit, tell me more about Partimus. I think it will interest our readers.
Malmrose: Partimus launched in 2006 as a non-profit to support effective use of technology in education. The initial motivation was to support software development for OLPC, but we couldn't find a way to latch on to OLPC effectively. Since then we have done small projects shipping desktops from ACCRC to schools, helping set up labs for schools, and other projects, one funded through a Systers grant.

I can announce our current initiative -- we are setting up the framework for Partimus (which means "we share" in Latin) to function as a donation center to connect nearly new laptops and desktops with new owners who can show obvious need for the assistance. The Partimus CTO, Maile Urbancic, helps run university housing at the University of California at Berkeley and through her work she has seen many impoverished students, especially graduate students, who would benefit greatly from a laptop that could help them through a few years of school. On my side, I have seen inventory go unused, depreciating every day that it sits on our shelves. Laptops that are used for shows, demo models and other lightly used systems can be donated to people who could put them to good use.

Several economic and societal factors are coming together to make this an excellent time to launch the Partimus branch that can be the go-to donation center for hardware vendors who want to keep their inventory tight like we do. Currently, the plan is to have one laptop posted at time with people submitting a short essay explaining their need. The end result will be to not only donate systems to good new "adoptive" homes, but to encourage others to do the same unofficially in their own social circles.

Next Moves

That concludes my email exchange with Malmrose. I plan to check out Partimus based on my own personal interests, and I'll be watching ZaReason for the official tower server and netbook announcements.

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