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Update: Hey dude, could that be Linux on your Dell?

The idea, suggested by IT users on a Dell Web site, is being eyed by the company

By Todd R. Weiss
February 24, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Editor's note: Although Dell plans to certify three product lines for possible Linux use, it has not yet decided to pre-install the operating system on the computers. The story has been updated with corrected information.

After collecting some 1,800 new product and service ideas from IT users and customers using an online "suggestion box," Dell Inc. has announced that it's taking the user suggestions seriously and will work to certify three of its hardware lines to be ready to run Novell SUSE Linux.

The company won't initially offer Linux-equipped machines for sale, but could do so in the future, a spokesman said.

The Dell IdeaStorm Web site, where customers and other IT enthusiasts can offer recommendations about future Dell products and configurations that they'd want to buy, was started on Feb. 16 by CEO Michael Dell, who is looking for ways to re-energize the company's sales and financial performance after several disappointing quarters.

One post that got a lot of interest was the idea that Dell bring back a reasonably priced laptop computer that runs Linux.

Just a week after debuting the IdeaStorm site, the company said Friday night that customer input inspired it to certify some of its hardware as Linux-ready and to make it easier for customers to buy the machines and install Linux themselves.

"It's exciting to see the IdeaStorm community's interest in open-source solutions like Linux and OpenOffice," the company said in a post on the Web site. "Your feedback has been all about flexibility and we have seen a consistent request to provide platforms that allow people to install their operating system of choice. We are listening, and as a result, we are working with Novell to certify our corporate client products for Linux, including our OptiPlex desktops, Latitude notebooks and Dell Precision workstations. This is another step towards ensuring that our customers have a good experience with Linux on our systems."

The company said that other Linux distributions were also suggested by users, and that Dell will look into possible certifications with other Linux brands across its product lines.

Several years ago, Dell did sell some personal computers that ran Linux, but the efforts weren't well-publicized and didn't really catch on in the marketplace. Now, several IT analysts and Linux luminaries said conditions are better for Dell to try that again.

"I think it would be very worthwhile for Dell," said Jon "Maddog" Hall, the executive director of Linux International, an open-source advocacy group in Amherst, N.H. "It's always better when a hardware manufacturer works with software vendors" to integrate their products for users. "That's what makes a good combination. That's why Apple is so good at what they do."

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