Dell is not-so-quietly venturing into waters it had not previously sailed. This week the worlds largest personal computer maker augmented its already considerable personal technology portfolio with printers, handhelds and a miniature music player.
News of these other product lines has diverted media attention away from the companys core business of PCs, at least temporarily.
But Dell Computer Corp. has launched a group of new PCs in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) that are newsworthy—thanks to some new bundled software alternatives.
Dell on Wednesday launched the new Dimension 1100, Dimension 5150c and Dimension 9150 PCs for distribution in EMEA, Dimension Product Marketing Manager Adam Griffin told Ziff Davis Internet.
The Dimension 5150 replaces the 5100 and includes RAID (usually deployed on servers) support for users who want to run two hard disks for additional space or extra backup security.
The 5150C is a smaller PC designed for those with limited space who want to fit it into a home entertainment system, Griffin said. The 9150—a high-end machine that features an Nvidia 7800GT graphics card and has Gigabit Ethernet networking—replaces the 9100.
Griffin told a UK reporter Wednesday that he expects these new models to be released in the United States by the end of the year, but he would not confirm that for Ziff Davis Internet.
Dell U.S. corporate spokesperson Liem Nguyen told Ziff Davis Internet that "no new product announcements are forthcoming at this time."
Dell also is seriously considering including the option of Microsoft Corp.s Media Center Edition operating system—which it already offers on Dimension computers in the United States—on the new machines in Europe, Griffin said.
"In EMEA, we continue to follow this market with interest, and when we believe there is a customer demand in EMEA, we will look to offer a solution that fulfills that," Griffin told Ziff Davis Internet.
Griffin added, "Media Center Edition is something Dell is very interested in. As a company, we believe our products will be a key part of a customers digital home. While no dates are currently set for any implementation of this operating system, we will continue to follow with interest the impact of Microsofts Media Center Edition operating systems and iterations of it."
While that is good news for Dells longtime mega-partner in Redmond, Wash.—which isnt selling Media Center as briskly as it would like—the fact that Dell is also planning to offer new, consumer-oriented PCs that can be shipped without an installed operating system will not be received favorably by Microsoft.
Dells corporate line has always been that it recommends the latest Windows version as its operating system. But it has never avoided offering alternatives for those who want them.
"[Dell] agrees that no OS is desirable for those wanting to install their own OS and therefore do not want the burden of paying for an OS they simply did not need," Griffin said.
This is not the first time Dell has shipped personal computers without an installed operating system to allow for personal installation of Linux or another OS.
Dell already offers PCs without an operating system; the n-Series is available in both the United States and EMEA.
Back in 2002, Ziff Davis Internets own John G. Spooner (then writing for CNET) reported that Dell had started shipping the n-Series PCs—part of the Optiplex and Precision workstation lines—that came without an installed OS and included a copy of a free operating system, FreeDOS, as part of the package.
Dell does not go out of its way to publicize this—preferring to leave the sales and marketing to its channel partners—but for more than a year, it has been the only mainstream PC maker to make pre-loaded Linux machines available, either online or in stores.
In 2004, Dell quietly partnered with Linspire (formerly Lindows) to ship Optiplex 170L mini-tower systems running Linspire 4.5 and bundled with three years of Dells Gold tech support plus one free year of Linspires CNR software catalog.
The machines are still available through Dells Italian channel sales partner, Questar. The machines are imaged with Linspire 4.5 and shipped from Dells plant in Ireland.
Last week, Ziff Davis Internets Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols reported that Dells partnership with Mandriva Linux has produced a new laptop, available in France.
This is the first time, Vaughan-Nichols wrote, that any Dell laptop with pre-installed Linux has been sold or supported by Dell.
Previously, only Dell n-Series Precision Workstations (enterprise-grade) with Red Hat Linux were available from Dell.