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Dell to offer Ubuntu Linux desktops and laptops

After months of speculation, Dell Inc. officially announced it will sell pre-installed, 100% certified Ubuntu Linux on its laptop and desktop computers.

In a joint statement released today, Dell Inc. and Canonical Ltd. announced that Dell will now offer laptops and desktop computers pre-installed with Ubuntu Linux 7.04.

The computers will be sold via Dell's web site, said Canonical's director of operations Jane Silber. "We have worked with Dell to get Ubuntu fully supported and fully certified on Dell hardware," she said. "Ubuntu has the full endorsement of Dell."

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Silber said specifics of the partnership -- including specific hardware configurations and product pricing -- will be available from Dell at a later date. However, Linux desktop news site reported Tuesday that sources said Ubuntu would be released on a Dell e-series "Essential" Dimension desktop, an XPS desktop, and an e-series Inspiron laptop in late May.

The move was hardly a surprise for Ubuntu supporters and analysts, who have seen the OS thrive over the past few years as a free desktop alternative to Microsoft Windows and even commercial Linux distributions like Red Hat and Novell SUSE Enterprise Linux. In addition to Ubuntu, Dell also offers pre-installed Red Hat and Novell SUSE Linux on many of its server and desktop models.

Fueling the fire even more was Dell CEO Michael Dell, who purportedly acquired a Precision M90 mobile workstation and loaded it with Ubuntu 7.04 and a host of open source applications in late April.

When Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth was asked about the purchase during a recent conference call, he said: "I won't comment on conversations that may or may not be happening … I am certainly happy that Michael Dell is forward looking and looking at Ubuntu … it was a fun story, but I don't see any subliminal messaging going on there."

Dell customers have been lobbying for pre-installed Linux desktops at Dell's IdeaStorm. The IdeaStorm program, introduced by Dell in February, is a site where users submit and vote for ideas to be implemented at Dell. Tens of thousands of requests have been made, and the popular requests page has been dominated by Ubuntu/openSUSE/Fedora-related queries. To date, more than 129,000 visitors have visited the site asking for pre-installed Linux on Dell machines.

"Generally, this news is good for the entire open source ecosystem," Silber said. "It broadens access to Linux in general terms and Ubuntu in particular."

Server-side Ubuntu to follow?
Raven Zachary, senior analyst with the New York-based 451 Group, said the news also meant users could expect an Ubuntu server offering from Dell in the near future. "I think you will find Dell, over time, also offering Ubuntu across its server product line as Ubuntu grows in popularity in the data center," he said.

Ubuntu on the server would mean one distribution to manage, from the developer's desktop to the data center, Zachary said, and would feature Canonical's 24x7 support offering.

Ubuntu version 7.04, the most operating system's more recent iteration, launched on April 19.

Have a quesiton or a comment about this article? Email Jack Loftus, News Writer. You can also visit our new blog at the Enterprise Linux Log.

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