This morning, Dell launched three Linux-based consumer-oriented PCs in the US market only, fulfilling its promise to offer the open source solution on a limited basis by the end of May. The PCs include both notebook and desktop models and run the Ubuntu 7.04 distribution of Linux. Additionally, Dell announced that retailing giant Wal-Mart will begin selling its Windows-based PCs, the first time the company's products would be made widely available through a mass market retailer.

Dell's Ubuntu Linux offerings include the Dimension E520 (starting at $599) and Dimension XPS 410n ($849 and up) desktops and the Inspiron E1505n notebook ($599 and up). The computers appear to offer about a $50 price reduction over otherwise identical models running Windows Vista.

All three PCs utilize Intel microprocessors. While the notebook can be configured with as little as 512 MB of RAM, the desktops both ship with at least 1 GB, Dell says. The notebook features an 80 GB hard drive to start, while the desktops start with a more voluminous 250 GB drive.

The move to Linux is a desperate one for Dell, which is still reeling from a year of diminishing market share, bad press, and shoddy customer support. In a bid to reverse its fortunes, Dell removed its CEO and reinstated company founder Michael Dell. Mr. Dell started a customer feedback blog that resulted in the Linux offerings and began negotiating deals with retailers to stock Dell PCs for the first time. The first of those retailers is Wal-Mart, which will begin selling Dell Dimension PCs in over 3000 locations around the US starting this week. Other retailers are expected to sign on soon as well, Mr. Dell said.