Can Alex bring Linux to the masses?
Imagine this as a business plan.
You're a small start-up, and you want to introduce millions of people to computing for the first time. You also aim to transform the way computers are sold, persuading people to subscribe to software as a service with regular monthly payments.
Oh, and finally you want to take on a rather bigger rival - Microsoft - and persuade the world that there's a better, easier way of personal computing.
That essentially is what a company called the Broadband Computer Company has in mind with its Alex computer - and if this outrageously ambitious plan succeeds, it could play an important role in bringing Linux-based operating systems to a much wider public.
When you sign up to Alex you are buying a whole package rather than a computer. The idea is that a newcomer to computing gets a laptop, a broadband connection, access to software on the Alex servers, and technical support - for a monthly fee of £39.95 for two years.
And at the heart of the project is Linux, or at least the Ubuntu variant of the open source operating system coupled with a desktop designed by Alex's own developers.
When I met the two founders of the business, Andy Hudson and Harry Drnec, they both stressed that personal experience had taught them that there was a huge demand for an easier entry to computing. Mr Hudson said he was a late but enthusiastic adopter:
"I was 50 years old when someone gave me a computer," explained Mr Hudson, who is now 63.
"I got into it very quickly but I got frustrated... eventually I got to the point where I wondered what a computer would be like if it was designed by a human."
Andy and Harry say you shouldn't have to understand what makes a computer work - any more than you need to understand the technical specifications of a fridge to use it.
So Alex is designed to do the basics - web, e-mail, documents, photos - rather than anything very sophisticated.
The hardware itself is not at all high-end and the Alex team tells me that in tests on computers that are five- or six-years-old, their software has worked fine.
The Broadband Computer Company, which is based in Newcastle, has been working on this project for three years, and didn't immediately adopt a Linux solution - in fact, the first big trial was based on Windows.
But the company's Chief Technology Officer Barney Morrison-Lyons says that was never going to be the right route:
"The biggest problem with Microsoft is badly-written software - the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux."
Now comes the difficult bit, selling Alex to people who know nothing about computers - and may think this system sounds pretty expensive.
And while they won't know that it's a Linux machine, that may put off those friends and relatives who are always ready with advice.
The company says it's already heard from one customer who tried the system and loved it, but was persuaded that he had to have a Windows machine by his son because that was all he understood.
With the government in a drive to get millions of the digitally-excluded online, the company hopes its computer can play a part.
But Andy Hudson says it's made no headway so far: "We've tried but you'd think they all worked for Microsoft," he explains, making clear his disgruntlement.
It sounds like Alex has a steep hill to climb. But in Harry Drnec it has a man who's used to taking on corporate giants. He joined the loss-making Red Bull energy drink business in the UK and transformed it into a hugely profitable business.
"With Red Bull we battled Coca Cola." he told me, insisting that Alex could battle Microsoft - although making it clear that the eventual aim was to sell up to a bigger player. "We're the little guy but we're the good guys. We do have something of value and we will get it out there."
So far Linux has mainly been used by people who know a lot about computers and care deeply about open-source software. Now we'll find out whether it can be sold to people who know little and care less about software - but just want an easy route to the web.
We'll also find out whether the Linux community will welcome them in. Earlier this week a message on this blog from someone called "linuxrich" said this:
"Far too often, people get their hands on gadgets (Including PCs!) that they think they need but have no idea how to use properly and have no inclination to learn to use and look after. To be fair, this is due to the way such things are sold. You can pick up a bewildering array of tech items at your nearest supermarket these days, as a consumer/commodity item. PCs, high end smart phones and the like are complicated tools. It's a shame they're not sold as such."
The message there seems to be the exact opposite of the philosophy of the Alex project. So who's got it right - are computers complicated tools that should only be approached by trained professionals, or should approaching them be no more intimidating than opening the fridge door?