The Menglan Group, a Chinese company, plans to sell a Linux laptop for 1 500 yuan in China. In US dollars, this is a mere $187. Called the Longmeng, or Dragon Dream, the new laptop is aimed at consumers in the nation's rural areas, and weighs 500 grams. It incorporates a Godson II CPU developed by the Chinese Institute of Computing Technology, which has about as much juice as a Pentium III. The Menglan Group plans to sell around 100,000 of the laptops this year.

"We aren't looking to compete with the mainstream PC brands such as Lenovo and Apple as we are in a different class altogether," Zhang Fuxin, an engineer at the Chinese institute, said. The laptop uses Linux software and does not support Microsoft's Windows program, he said.

"There are a lot fewer applications that run on Linux, and this may affect the acceptance," said Frank Shi, an analyst at CLSA in Hong Kong. "But price is the key. The growth rate for computers in the low-end market is faster than in the high-end market."