Done deal: Dell to install Linux on laptops, PCs

After floating the possibility last month that it might begin selling some of its laptops and desktop PCs preloaded with Linux, Dell Inc. Wednesday said that it will definitely offer Linux on select desktop and notebook computers due to consumer demand.

In an announcement on the company's IdeaStorm Web site, Dell said it will provide specific models and details about the configurations and Linux versions offered in the next few weeks.

Two weeks ago, Dell unveiled an online survey that asked prospective buyers what they would buy if Dell once again offered Linux-loaded machines for sale. The survey received more than 100,000 responses, according to the company. More than than 70 percent of the respondents said they would use a Linux-loaded Dell system for both home and office use and said that existing community-based forums would meet their technical support needs for a tested and validated Linux operating system, according to the company.

The respondents also said that improved hardware support for Linux is as important as the distributions that will be offered.

No time frame has been set for when the systems will go on sale.

In a related post on the company's Direct2Dell blog site, Matt Domsch, a Linux software architect at Dell, said that the company will work to ensure that needed software drivers are available for Linux users as part of the new Linux on Dell initiative.

"At least half of the comments effectively said, 'We want Free Software, GPL-licensed drivers which are maintained in, for all hardware in Dell systems,'" Domsch wrote in his blog. "This request is not new to us -- it's been our standard operating procedure for the last eight years on PowerEdge servers, which today have no closed-source drivers necessary. For new Linux desktops and notebooks, we'll use drivers already in the mainline kernels for as many components as possible. In these cases, the drivers will be included in your distribution of choice. This includes storage, wired networking, power management, USB and more."

Where no open-source drivers are available, such as for software-based modems, Dell would not be able to offer drivers, the blog said. In those cases, users would have to replace software-based modems in their new Dell Linux desktop machines with hardware-based modems that work under Linux, or use a PC Card or ExpressSlot modem in their new Dell Linux-based laptops.

Dell offered Linux-loaded laptops several years ago, but they were not very successful in the marketplace. Dell now offers Linux on a few precision workstation models for specific business and technical users, but those machines are not available to the general public.

A Dell spokesman could not be reached for additional comment Wednesday.

This story, "Done deal: Dell to install Linux on laptops, PCs" was originally published by Computerworld.

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