After launching a Web site aimed at letting customers provide feedback on its products, Dell found itself inundated with an unexpected request: Customers want to purchase computers preloaded with Linux and other open-source solutions. Dell's new Web site, IdeaStorm, has received more than 2000 requests for open-source software. As a result, the company is now rethinking its stance on Linux.

"It's exciting to see the IdeaStorm community's interest in open-source solutions like Linux and OpenOffice," a Dell posting reads. "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."

Dell created IdeaStorm to ensure that it's providing customers with the solutions they need. Currently, the most popular idea on the Web site has to do with preinstalled Linux (including multiboot with Windows, preinstalled OpenOffice, and Linux laptops). Customers also want PCs that come without preinstalled software or a preloaded OS and PCs that have Mozilla Firefox as the default browser.

One problem with Linux, of course, is that there are so many versions of it. Dell addressed this problem in its posting and noted that it couldn't pick just one Linux distribution. "In addition to working with Novell, we are also working with other distributors and evaluating the possibility of additional certifications across our product line," Dell's posting reads. "We are continuing to investigate your other Linux-related ideas." Dell certifies Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell's SUSE Linux for use on its various server products.

Dell currently offers n Series notebooks, desktops, and workstations, each of which comes with a copy of the open-source FreeDOS system. (Users typically install their own OSs on such systems.)