Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
The small steps that Dell has taken toward offering desktop and notebook PCs preloaded with Ubuntu 7.04 could mean a giant leap forward for the viability of desktop Linux.
Linux preloads from Dell would give computer buyers who aren't out to install their own operating system an opportunity to choose Linux in the same way they choose Windows--by buying a system, taking it out of the box and starting to use it. Ubuntu on Dell would mean that seasoned Linux users could buy one of these systems with the knowledge that the hardware would work with their operating system of choice--even if they prefer some other distribution, hardware that works with one Linux distribution can be made to work with any distribution.
As I opined in this space a few weeks ago, Ubuntu makes the most sense for a mainstream desktop Linux option. Ubuntu is polished and popular, and isn't encumbered by the yearly update fees that come with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise options with which OEMs, including Dell, have so far flirted. "Free" is a big part of Linux's appeal, but fleeing Windows' activation routines and genuine advantage software for Red Hat Enterprise's entitlements and installation numbers doesn't feel awfully free.
However, before we go out and rent the convertible Cadillac from which Michael Dell and Ubuntu chief Mark Shuttleworth will Grand Marshal the 2007: Year of Desktop Linux parade, there remain a good many questions to be answered.