Nice article by Slashdot editor Roblimo on making a business out of an integrated hardware / software + support and upgrades included type of offering to small business owners.
Worse, the Linux software people asked, “What about hardware?” and the hardware people asked, “What about software?” These questions proved that we weren’t being heard. Our idea, obviously, was to sell or lease both as a single package. We believed (and still believe) that the ideal small business computer system would arrive ready to plug in and run, preloaded with a stock set of applications, with additional application packages available for an additional fee. We wanted to take all worries about computers off the small business manager’s shoulders. We saw a service business, not a hardware sales business, even though hardware would be the base on which the service rested. And everything we wanted to do relied on hardware and software that already existed and worked well.
You configure the server to be administered remotely. This is what makes this system cheaper and easer to maintain than others. And the price can become unbeatable if the company behind it is large enough that thousands of its clients share the cost of maintaining a wide selection software packages.
The plug-and-play Linux office system was a good idea in 1998, and it’s a better one today. It is a business model that is absolutely in tune with free software principles, and better yet, it offers a chance for local Linux advocates to exercise their zeal in a productive, profitable manner.
Some good comments too at the bottom of the page.