A few weeks ago, computer maker Dell posted a Web-based survey asking its customers about Linux. According to the company, more than 100,000 people responded, and the results were easy to interpret: folks want desktop and notebook computers with Linux pre-installed. So, Dell has announced it plans to expand its Linux offerings beyond a handful of existing configurations in its server and Precision workstation lines. The company expects to announce detailed information on LInux systems it plans to offer, including information on Linux distributions and Dell’s testing and certification efforts, “in the coming weeks.”
The decision makes Dell the first major computer manufacturer to be willing to pre-install Linux on computers outside the niche of workstation and server products.
According to Dell, more than 70 percent of the survey respondents said they would use a Dell system with Linux for both home and office use; although online surveys like this are self-selecting and don’t represent the computing market as a whole, considering the sheer number of respondents, Dell seems unlikely to be misinterpreting market interest in pre-installed Linux solutions. Respondents indicated they would like a selection of both desktop and notebook systems with Linux, and said that they felt existing community-based technical support and answer forums would meet their support needs.
Survey respondents also indicated improved hardware support for Linux was as important to them as the details of the specific Linux distribution(s) Dell might offer; in a post on the Direct2Dell blog, Dell’s Linux Software Architect Matt Domsch indicated the company is very aware of these issues, and plans to extend its use of free drivers wherever possible to enable features like printing and wireless networking, bundling free drivers wherever possible, while bundling non-free closed-source drivers for components like video cards and software based modems where for-free drivers may not be available, or currently offer limited functionality. Domsch notes, “There’s no way to please everyone, but I’ll continue to share more details around our strategy as we have new developments.”