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Ubuntu Linux goes retail


The cheapest way to get Ubuntu Linux is to download it, burn it to a CD, and then install it on your PC of choice. The easiest way to get Ubuntu is to buy it pre-loaded on a Dell PC. The U.S. consumer way to get Ubuntu may turn out to be buy it yourself at Best Buy.

Steve George, director of corporate services for Canonical, announced on a blog that Canonical along with ValuSoft, a U.S. retail software distributor, have paired together to get a boxed version of Ubuntu 8.04 into Best Buy retail stores. The retail box contains a “Ubuntu 8.04 CD, a Quick Start Guide and 60 days of support from the ValuSoft team, trained and backed by the Canonical support guys. The support covers installation and getting started using Ubuntu and is priced at $19.99.”

“The aim” wrote George, “is to provide Ubuntu to users who want the software and support conveniently presented in a boxed set. Making it available through Best Buy is an opportunity to reach users who are unaware of Ubuntu or who are bandwidth restricted and don’t want to download Ubuntu themselves.”

If that describes you, and your closest Best Buy is several hundred miles away, you can also order the Ubuntu package from Best

The packaging is designed to make it clear to anyone that Ubuntu enables users to do the PC basics of “Web Browsing”, “Productivity Suite” and “Email” without any additional software. Or, as I’d put it, $19.95 for the operating system and the office suite vs. $279.90 for Windows Vista Home Premium and Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007.

The real value-add for new users is that the 60-day support contract will make it easy for people who’d get the shakes at the very thought of installing an operating system.  It gives the reassurance of having a helping hand no more than a phone call away.

For users who really don’t want to try to do it by themselves, Best Buy’s in-house tech crew, Geek Squad, will install it for you for $129.95. That’s still cheaper than Windows, but at this point, you’ll really be better off just clicking your way over to Dell’s Ubuntu store.

Dell not your speed? There are smaller companies, like LinuxCertified, that will also sell you preinstalled Ubuntu systems. In addition, other OEMs will soon be offering Ubuntu-powered PCs.

Desktop Linux used to be pretty geeky. With moves like this one, and the flood of Liunx-powered cheap UMPC (Ultra Mobile PCs) like the Asus Eee PCs, by year’s end, it’s going to be just as easy to buy a Linux PC at a local retail outlet as it is to buy a Mac today.

A version of this story first appeared in ComputerWorld.

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