On May 24, the rumors and speculation came to an end. Dell officially unveiled its three consumer systems — the XPS 410n and Dimension E520n desktops, and the Inspiron E1505n notebook — that come with the Ubuntu 7.04 Linux distribution factory installed.
I predicted that Dell would release Ubuntu-powered computers from these lines. I did not see, however, that rather than offering a variety of models, albeit not the full range from each line, that Dell would be offering a single system from each line.
These three systems will be made available in the U.S. after 4:00 PM CDT on May 24 at the Dell Linux site. These systems are meant to target Linux enthusiasts. The release of these Ubuntu-powered systems is the direct result of the outpouring of customer demand at Dell’s IdeaStorm site, the company’s Web site for fielding customers’ suggestions to improve products, services, and operations.
Altogether, about 30,000 IdeaStorm community members suggested that Dell offer systems with pre-installed Linux. In a follow-up survey, more than 100,000 participated to help determine customer preferences, including which Linux distribution Dell should offer initially. According to sources within Dell, Ubuntu, the popular community Linux, was clearly the most popular choice.
Neil Hand, VP of Dell Consumer Product Group, stated, “The interest and enthusiasm from customers who challenged us to deliver a consumer Linux solution have been matched within Dell and Canonical, the sponsor of Ubuntu, by a team of dedicated professionals who made this happen in a phenomenally short period of time. It’s fantastic to be able to offer what many Linux enthusiasts want, great Dell products with popular open-source software for work and play.”
With no software licensing costs associated with Ubuntu, the base price for each system is competitively priced and fully configured. Hardware support is available through normal Dell support channels, along with basic software support on a variety of dedicated Web sites and Linux forums.
If Ubuntu community software support is not to a customer’s liking, customers can also choose service upgrades from Canonical, including: 30-day Get Started, One-year Basic, and One-Year Standard. More information on support is available at Canonical’s support site.
The hardware options Dell is offering on each system are ones that have the most mature and stable Linux driver support. These hardware options reportedly have been thoroughly tested and certified by Canonical. For hardware options not offered with this release, Dell is working with the vendors of those devices to improve the maturity and stability of their associated Linux drivers, and expects to have a broader range of hardware support with Linux over time.
In March, Matt Domsch, Dell’s Linux software architect, announced that Dell was encouraging its component vendors to release open-source drivers for its forthcoming Linux-powered PC lines.
Dell also announced that it is creating a Dell community Linux Forum. This site, as of the morning of May 24, does not appear to be operational yet. The forum is meant to provide an easily accessible resource and collaborative environment that enables customers to interact with other Linux enthusiasts, ask questions, share experiences, and learn, Dell said.
John Hull, Dell’s manager of Linux OS technologies, had previously announced that Dell will be setting up a wiki on the Dell Community Linux site. This site will provide “technical details of the supported systems, information on the device drivers used for system peripherals, details of our Ubuntu factory-installation, and information on the problems we found during our testing, with their fixes/workarounds,” Hull said. The wiki is not yet open.
Dell’s new Ubuntu systems can be customized and purchased, after 4:00 PM CDT on May 24 at the Dell open system site. The Inspiron E1505n laptop pricing starts at $599. The Dimension E520n desktop’s entry level price also begins at $599. The XPS 410n will list for $849. The desktop models come with monitors. The E520n package will include a 17-inch flat panel display, while the XPS 410n includes a 19-inch flat panel display.