Dell Keeps Linux Penguins Marching Forward

As the only major OEM now offering pre-installed Linux, Dell is eyeing new markets and working with virtualization to increase the market for its Ubuntu clients.

Dell first announced that it would preinstall Ubuntu Linux on some of its consumer desktops and notebooks just three months ago, but the results have shown the vendor that there is no reason to stop there.

At this years LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, the Round Rock, Texas, company announced that it would expand its Ubuntu-based PCs into Europe for the first time, including launches in France, England and Germany.

At the same time, Kevin Kettler, Dells chief technology officer, spoke of how Dell is also looking to preinstall virtualization technology in its PCs to give users the option of running both a Linux operating systems as well as Microsoft Windows.

So far, its hard for Dell to measure the full success of its Linux launch. Judy Chavis, director of enterprise marketing for Dell, said it would take some time for outside analysts and the company to determine the exact number of customers buying and using the companys Ubuntu PCs. However, judging by the response the company received when the idea was first floated on Dells IdeaStorm blog in Feb., the notion of the Linux desktop is catching on with the public.

"A lot has to do with people being comfortable with a Linux desktop," Chavis said. "What we are seeing are customers who are on their second PC and are looking to give it a try and see what happens. One of the big benefits for us is that the applications are much better on the desktop side then they were several years ago."


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Although the announcement that Dell would offer preinstalled Linux on some of its consumer models made headlines earlier this year, the company has been offering Linux to its enterprise customers for several years, both in its PC and in its servers, Chavis said.

However, even on the enterprise side, Windows still remains the preferred choice for Dell customers. While some customers do ask for Linux, the company does not want to evangelize a particular technology.

"We dont ever want to try and push a technology down on our customers throats," Chavis said. "Right now, in corporate America and in Europe, its still a pretty entrenched Windows environment."

Another area that Michael Dell, the companys founder and CEO, has publicly expressed interest in is for factory-installed Linux for small and midsized businesses. Chavis said the SMB market is one of several markets that the company remains interested in, although there is not a specific timeframe for a big Linux push just yet.

Part of the problem, according to Chavis, is that many SMBs can already run Linux on their clients and servers, but most have at least one critical application that runs only on a Windows platform. In these cases, Chavis said Dell believes this calls for its factory-installed virtualization solution that will allow customers to run both Linux and Windows on PCs.


Click here to read more about desktop Linux.

The next specific step for Dell is a move into emerging markets that are ready for a Linux client. Chavis said Dell will soon launch a Novell Linux desktop in China for business users and consumers. Emerging markets are also an area where Dell is looking to expand its reach to gain back PC market share from Hewlett-Packard.

Chavis said that any Linux offering always comes back to what its customers want.

"Where people are asking for [Linux], were going to keep after it," Chavis said.


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