Dell has confirmed that it will preinstall the Ubuntu distribution of the Linux operating system on some of its PCs, in response to user pressure.
The PC manufacturer made the announcement with Canonical, the commercial provider of the Ubuntu Linux distribution.
Speculation had been rife for some time that Dell would embrace Ubuntu, after tusers made it clear in posts to the company's IdeaStorm website that they wanted more support for Linux as an open source alternative to Microsoft's Windows.
Michael Dell's own public penchant for the Linux distribution has contributed to the speculation. The Dell chairman and chief executive uses the latest version of Ubuntu, release 7.04, also known as "Feisty Fawn", on his own Dell Precision M90 laptop, according to a biography on the Dell website.
"This ends the speculation," said Jane Silber, director of operations at Canonical. "We wanted to move quickly and give a response to the reports."
"The relationship with Canonical came about as part of our ongoing evaluation of distributions that customers asked for in our Linux survey," a Dell spokesman said. "Ubuntu was the most requested [distribution] by a wide margin."
Canonical will certify the Dell models that feature preinstalled Ubuntu and will also provide support for the Linux distribution, which users will have the option to purchase from Dell's web site, according to Silber. Dell is still finalising its plans around support, but the company intends to fully support the hardware as it does with its n Series products, Bolen said.
Dell's n Series Dimension and OptiPlex desktop models and Precision workstations come with a copy of the FreeDOS open-source operating system. The machines do not ship with a preinstalled version of Microsoft's Windows.
While Silber expects the Dell Ubuntu machines will not include a preinstalled version of Windows, Bolen sidestepped the question, only commenting, "Our target for the initial offering will be Linux enthusiasts and we'll create a site [that] suits their needs."
Teaming up with Canonical is another step in Dell's strategy to support Linux, according to Bolen. "We offer Red Hat on our Dell Precision workstations, our commercial desktops and notebooks are certified on Novell SLED [Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop] 10, and now we are extending our Linux program to consumer enthusiasts," he wrote.
Although Canonical already works with a number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Silber believes the deal with Dell represents the first time Ubuntu will be preinstalled on a major computer vendor's machines. Previous OEM deals involved a post-purchase Linux installation or a CD of the distribution bundled with the computer.
As to which Dell machines will feature preinstalled Ubuntu, Bolen said the company expects to announce details by the end of this month.