Dell ships PCs with Ubuntu Linux 8.04, but not all are satisfied

Dell is now making some consumer notebook and desktop PC models available pre-installed with the latest edition of Ubuntu Linux, "Hardy Heron," in a number of countries. Still, some observers are raising questions about why these same PCs aren't available with Linux elsewhere, as well as around Dell's continued use of Ubuntu in the face of usability and application support issues.

"As of today, consumers can purchase the XPS M1330N and Inspiron 1525N laptops and Inspiron 530N desktop with Ubuntu 8.04 pre-installed at," wrote Dell's Anne B. Camden, in a blog entry on Friday.

The PCs with Ubuntu 8.04 pre-loaded are available to consumers in the US, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, "and many Latin American countries (like Mexico and Columbia)," said Daniel Judd, also of Dell, in his own blog on the same day. Dell previously issued an option for Ubuntu 8.03 on some models.

During the LinuxWorld San Francisco time frame in early August, Dell will also add the XPS M1530n and the new Studio 15n to the line-up of PCs available with Hardy Heron as an alternative to Windows, according to Judd, who is product group strategist at Dell.

Actually, before Dell began pre-installing Ubuntu on some models, the first Dell PCs with Linux were offered not by Dell's North American arm, but by Dell's Web site in France, which back in 2005 sold a laptop pre-installed with Mandrake, the predecessor to Mandriva Linux.

This week, customers in some other areas of the globe are wondering online why their countries are not on the Hardy Heron list.

"Great work Dell! Do you have any plans for the Italy market?" wrote one end user, in response to Camden's post.

"Now what about expanding availability to [the] rest of Europe. Like to the birthplace of Linux, Finland! I've been waiting for these Ubuntu machines since they were announced -- and a year later not a single word of other countries. I need a new computer already, guess I'll settle then with Lenovo with SLED [SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop] since those are available here," wrote another.

As with Dell's previous Ubuntu-enabled PCs, the 8.04-installed models will allow for DVD playback right out of the box. Dell also "spent months in development and testing to offer more peripheral support - like ATI Video Graphics, Dell Wireless, [fingerprint readers], HDMI, Bluetooth, and MP3/WMA/WMV," contended Camden, who is a senior PR manager at Dell.

These drivers, she said, "coincidentally were some of the more popular suggestions" on Dell's IdeaStorm, an online suggestion box of sorts operated by Dell.

Yet while Dell has included a lot of new drivers, the company is also encountering some criticism on the Web for sticking with Ubuntu -- which is regarded as a not particularly easy distribution of Linux for most consumers to use, and also as a distribution known to experience compatibility issues with some desktop hardware.

Meanwhile, some critics are bringing up suggestions that Dell ought to ship Linux desktop applications along with the Ubuntu-installed PCs, or that Ubuntu ought be be called upon in some way to provide support to users.

At least one user would also like Linux to be an option across all Dell models. "I understand that you may have reasons behind [a] system not having Linux as an option but surely you do not use hardware that is so non-standard that either Ubuntu or [Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop] will not work with it," he wrote on the IdeaStorm site.

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