Dell has confirmed that it will sell some PCs pre-installed with Linux, rather than Windows, in what could turn out to be the biggest boost to the adoption of desktop Linux to date.
The move, which is likely raising eyebrows at Microsoft Corp, comes in response to user demand. Dell’s recently launched IdeaStorm feedback web sites was deluged in its first few weeks with requests for Linux PCs.
Dell has heard you and we will expand our Linux support beyond our existing servers and Precision workstation line, the company said on its web site yesterday. Our first step in this effort is offering Linux pre-installed on select desktop and notebook systems.
Dell has not yet decided which Linux distribution it will offer. Two weeks ago, it opened a survey that asked that question, and received 100,000 responses, but it has not yet made the results available.
Endorsement from Dell, until recently the number one PC vendor, is no small matter for Linux, which is well-established on the server but has never really taken off on the desktop.
Deals from Dell could put Linux into the hands of people who would not ordinarily try it, as it will likely reduce the price of a new PC. But these people could turn out to be the same kind of people who are too familiar with Windows to switch to an unfamiliar product.
It remains to be seen what the move could do, if anything, for Dell’s PC market share, which now trails Hewlett-Packard Co, or whether it could lead to a small dent in Microsoft’s Windows dominance. Microsoft could not provide comment before press time yesterday.
A key concern among potential Linux PC buyers is driver support, according to Dell. Without the proper drivers, peripherals and hardware components won’t work correctly. Linux fans want open source drivers in their Dell PCs.
At least half of the comments effectively said ‘we want Free Software, GPL-licensed drivers which are maintained in kernel.org, for all hardware in Dell systems.’, noted Dell’s Linux software architect Matt Domsch, in a Dell blog.
Kernel.org is the main repository for revisions of the Linux operating system kernel.
Domsch said that Dell would choose free driver components over non-free equivalents, and will provide non-free drivers as a choice in cases such as video and graphics cards.
For device types where a choice exists between a component with a non-Free driver and one with Free driver availability, in our Linux offering we’ll opt to bundle the component with the Free driver. Wireless network adapters is one such example; Printers are another, he wrote.