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Best Buy stores to sell boxed version of Ubuntu Linux

It includes a quick start guide, 60 days of support for new users

By Todd R. Weiss
July 9, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Consumers who want to try Ubuntu Linux but are intimidated by the idea of downloading and installing it themselves now have a less stressful option. They can walk into their local Best Buy store and pick up a boxed version with support for $19.99.

Since the first Ubuntu Linux operating system was released in October 2004, the software has been free to download and use. But that wasn't always an option for users with slow Internet connections or those who lacked adequate technical experience to download and install a new operating system.

Those are some of the reasons for Ubuntu's move today, said Steve George, director of corporate services at Canonical Ltd., the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu around the globe. The news was officially announced today by George in Canonical's blog, detailing how customers will get 60 days of support as well as a quick start guide when buying the retail-boxed package.

"This is really about reaching a different sort of user who isn't necessarily aware that you can get it online" as a free download, George said. "It's trying to present them with the proposition of a boxed set, along with language that's appropriate for them. Installing an operating system for most users is a bit of a big step, so having the support and helping them get up and running" is beneficial.

"Others know it's available as a free download, but they don't have the bandwidth to do it, so it's an easy way for them to get Ubuntu," he said.

Ubuntu has been available as a free download since its beginning, but users were also able to order it cheaply on a CD or DVD if they couldn't easily download it, George said. Another option available since 2006 is to buy it on a CD through Amazon.com, where it sells for $12.99.

"There have always been ways in which you can buy Ubuntu [that have] always been in line with the free software mantra," he said. "This is really an extension" of that.

To produce the boxed set, Ubuntu and Canonical partnered with software retailer ValuSoft, a division of THQ Inc. in Chaska, Minn., which sells a wide range of inexpensive software titles in many retail stores. Canonical trained the support staff at ValuSoft to provide support for Ubuntu, and Canonical support people are ready to assist with any escalated problems, he said.

The availability of Ubuntu Linux in Best Buy stores will depend upon each store location, George said. "Hopefully, Best Buy is just the first [chain to carry the product] and that ValuSoft and Canonical will be talking to other chains as well. We've never done this before. It's all about getting Ubuntu into other channels."



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