Linux Option for Dell PCs?

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Reports have surfaced throughout the blogosphere that Dell may be considering offering its customers the choice of a preinstalled Linux distribution when purchasing new PCs from the company.

The speculation stems from Dell’s IdeaStorm website, where the discussion surrounding the possibility of Linux distribution and support is currently dominating the community consciousness.

Growing dissatisfaction with Windows Vista and the attractive pricing of most Linux distributions (hard to ague with free) have led to a growing consumer sentiment toward the open source operating system in recent months.

Krishna Srinivasan explores a scenario that would see Linux offered as an option for purchasers of Dell PCs:

If the big hardware vendors are able to create their own support groups for a community Linux, they can in essence almost have their own operating system. Dell might "adopt" or sponsor the Gentoo Linux distribution and create a community of support for it. Then it would be Dell pushing out the Dell Gentoo Linux version with Dell’s own dollars for a Dell co-branded solution.

Ars Technica’s Ryan Paul, however, believes that any Linux talk right now would only be limited to enterprise solutions rather than individual consumers due to the challenges of providing support for Linux:

There is still a lot to gain by offering Linux preinstallation, but it’s a lot more relevant to large deployments rather than individual purchases. Schools, companies, and public institutions that want Linux preinstallation can already work with Dell’s partners to roll out Linux-based Dell desktop systems on a large scale.

Although it might make sense for Dell to start offering Linux preinstallations for regular consumers a few years from now, most people wanting to make the switch from Windows to Linux at this stage should do so with the guidance of a Linux enthusiast who can perform the installation and help them make the transition, or by purchasing from a shop that specializes in Linux preinstallation.

I’m not saying this because I think that Linux isn’t ready for the desktop. I’m saying this because I don’t think that Dell is capable yet of providing full technical support for desktop Linux. Dell has a hard enough time as it is supporting Windows.

Support for Linux has always been one of the major sticking points for users in determining whether or not to make the switch from a Windows or OS X based operating system.

Consequently, it has also become the major hindrance for manufacturers as well. So while the buzz surrounding the possibility of Dell picking up Linux as an option for its clients is a good thing, enthusiasts of the operating system would be well served not to hold their collective breaths waiting for the speculation to become reality.

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