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Dell to offer Ubuntu Linux on PCs, laptops

Pricing, configurations and support options will be unveiled later

By Todd R. Weiss
May 1, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Only 10 weeks after asking customers what products they'd like to see, Dell Inc. today announced that its upcoming Linux desktop PCs and laptops will be preloaded with Ubuntu Linux. They are slated to be avilable by the end of this month.

In postings on Dell's IdeaStorm and Dell2Dell Web sites today, the company said it moved quickly to offer the Linux-based hardware because of customer interest. In February, Dell had set up an "IdeaStorm" Web site to get feedback from customers about what products they wanted. In late March, after hearing from more than 100,000 users who filled out surveys on Linux preferences, Dell said it would start preloading Linux on some of its laptops and desktop PCs.

"The reason we're going with Ubuntu is because by far and away Ubuntu was the most requested distribution" by users who registered their preferences on the IdeaStorm site, said Jeremy Bolen, a Dell spokesman. "It was overwhelming, the response we got to the survey."

Bolen said that the models, configurations and prices of the Ubuntu-loaded hardware have not been announced. They will run Version 7.04 of Ubuntu Linux and will be available through a dedicated Linux Web page on the site where buyers will be able to configure and price their machines.

Asked if the new machines will be cheaper than comparable machines loaded with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Vista operating system, Bolen said, "I don't have a solid answer for that."

He also left open the possibility that other Linux distributions such as Red Hat Inc. or Novell Inc.'s SUSE Linux could later be added to Dell's Linux line. The company will "continue to take feedback from our customers and implement meaningful offerings that meet their needs," Bolen said.

Details are also being worked out regarding suport for the new Ubuntu Linux-equipped machines, he said. Hardware support will be provided by Dell, but operating system support could be provided through the open-source Ubuntu and Linux communities -- which survey respondents said they preferred -- or through a paid support contract with Canonical Ltd., the Isle of Man-based company that is the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu Linux. "Certainly, the option is open for paid support," Bolen said. "We're still kind of working through the mechanics of that."

Bolen said the overwhelming response from Linux enthusiasts inspired Dell to move quickly. "In the past five years, there's been a lot of development in Linux to make it a viable option for our customers, especially our enthusiasts," he said. "The audience we're really going after ... at least initially is the Linux enthusiast."

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