Dell, the world's largest PC maker, has found an innovative way to get around a Microsoft licensing requirement that restricts the manufacturer from shipping PCs without Windows or any other OS preinstalled on the system. Dell said this week that it will ship a new line of n-Series desktop and workstation PCs without preinstalled OSs. However, contrary to some reports you might have read, Dell's plan isn't designed to satisfy Linux enthusiasts but rather to help its largest customers avoid purchasing multiple copies of Windows for the same machines.

"The overwhelming majority of the systems we ship will go out with a Microsoft OS on them," a Dell representative told CNET recently, noting that the no-OS PCs will cost the same as those with preinstalled Windows. However, by not including a copy of Windows, Dell can save time for large companies that already purchase volume licenses for Windows. These companies can install Windows, Linux, or any other OS without having to first wipe a Dell software preinstallation.

Dell previously offered no-OS PCs and workstations to large customers, but Microsoft's new licensing policies, which went into effect August 1, forbid this arrangement. So Dell worked around the requirements by providing a CD-ROM-based copy of FreeDOS, a simple, free OS that no corporate customer could possibly be interested in using or need support for. As with previous no-OS PCs, Dell won't heavily market the new line of n-Series PCs and workstations and will sell the computers only to large companies that buy PCs in volume.