Confirming rumors in the Linux community, Dell this week announced that it will soon begin offering Ubuntu Linux on select consumer PC models. The announcement comes a few months after Dell responded to customer feedback by revealing that it will offer some variant of Linux on some mainstream consumer PC models. Ubuntu is the overwhelming favorite now among those who believe that Linux still has a chance to make a dent in the desktop market. Indeed, 80 percent of the customers asking Dell to offer Linux had asked for Ubuntu, Dell says.
"Dell will begin offering Canonical's latest version, Ubuntu 7.04, as an option on select Dell consumer models in the US in the coming weeks," a Dell announcement reads. "While Ubuntu 7.04 will appear on select consumer products, we continue to offer a wide variety of Linux options including Red Hat factory-installed on our Precision workstations and Novell certification of all our business systems."
According to Dell, consumers in the US who choose an Ubuntu-based desktop or notebook PC will be able to optionally purchase support from Ubuntu maker Cannonical. While pricing for this support is unknown, Canonical currently charges businesses $250 per year per PC for support during business hours, or $900 per year for 24/7 support. Presumably, consumer-oriented support would be less expensive. Customers who purchase a Dell PC with Windows Vista preinstalled, by comparison, get one year of support for free. An additional year of support is about $90, while Dell also offers various comprehensive PC Care support packages.
Regardless of the costs, Linux isn't likely to make a huge impact in the desktop market any time soon. Witness the problems faced by industry and press darling Apple, whose Mac OS X-based Macintosh computers have never made much of a dent in the market: In the most recent quarter, despite 30 percent growth, Apple only secured 2.49 percent of the worldwide computer market. That said, Apple's computers are more expensive than the average PC, while Ubuntu will run fine on lower-end machines. It's always possible that a small percentage of PC users will choose Ubuntu simply to save money, even if they end up installing their own OS on the PC later.
It's worth noting, too, that Dell had previously offered Linux on its PCs back in 1999 but cancelled the models due to low demand. Dell says that Linux has matured enough since then, however, to warrant another shot. "Linux has evolved to a point where there is something available \[there\] for consumers," a Dell spokesperson said. I guess we're going to find out.