Huzzah! At last it has finally happened. A major PC vendor is selling Linux preinstalled. That’s right, you no longer need fear whatever it is that’s so scary about installing an operating system. How’s this sound for $599 US?
Dell Dimension E520 N
Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E4300 (1.8GHz, 800 FSB)
Ubuntu Desktop Edition version 7.04
1GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz- 2DIMMs
250GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™
Sweet, or perhaps even more impressive, a laptop that doesn’t cost any more, same $599 US.
Dell Inspiron E1505 N
Intel® Pentium® dual-core proc T2080(1MB Cache/1.73GHz/533MHz FSB
Ubuntu Edition version 7.04
512MB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz, 2 DIMM
80GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
Sigh. If I still didn’t regard laptops as something of a luxury, I would snap that up. Very tempting, Dell!
If you’re not familiar with the world of Linux distributions, you might be wondering what this Ubuntu thing is. It is an operating system which, like other Linux distributions, uses the Linux operating system kernel. In the open source world, the vast majority of software is free, so companies distinguish their offerings by how and what they include. Ubuntu has focused heavily on the end user experience, putting to bed the idea that Linux is only for hard core geeks. (See Wikipedia’s article on the OS and its philosophy.)
I haven’t used it yet, but am installing its close cousin, Kubuntu, on a new box — more on that in a week or two or three. I have, though, looked over the shoulder of someone using it, and its default desktop is very pretty. It is hugely popular currently in the Linux world, which makes this different from an earlier attempt by Wal-Mart to sell Linux boxes, but with a dumbed-down distribution that few serious Linux users would want.
Even if the general public doesn’t knock down Dell’s doors clamoring for their Linux offerings, Dell has a market right now for these boxes, namely people who already like Linux and know that Ubuntu is a good distribution. This is especially true for the laptop, since, while it’s a usually a breeze to stick Linux on a regular PC these days, notebooks can be a little sticky. Even a hardcore Linux user will like the idea of getting one with a serious Linux distribution pre-installed. Dell can’t lose.
From a Canadian perspective, the only downside is that the Linux boxes seem to be offered strictly through Dell’s US site; they’re not shown at dell.ca. But if the day comes that I break down and want to buy that laptop, believe me, I’ll figure out a way to get it directly from dell.com, or through an American friend. It’s that good a deal.