Dell soon to launch Linux PCs

User demand has convinced Dell to offer PCs with Linux pre-installed — but there will be no naked PCs

Dell is getting ready to sell PCs that support Linux, but the manufacturer says it will continue its policy of always providing an operating system.

Many users are calling on PC vendors to supply so-called naked PCs — systems without an operating system — so they can install the OS of their choice.

Dell's grudging acknowledgement of users' wishes stems partly from the launch of its customer forum, the Dell Idea Storm. The Idea Storm gives users the chance to request products they would like to see rolled out by Dell.

Easily the most popular request on the Idea Storm is for Dell to offer Linux on its PCs. But for Dell there are a lot of questions to answer about providing Linux: not least which distributions it should offer.

Josh Claman, UK general manager of Dell, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that his company would not be comfortable supporting Linux unless it could guarantee the quality of such systems. But he said he was now confident that point had been reached.

But this does not mean that Dell will support every flavour of Linux. "We are looking at the options and we will be telling customers what we want to do soon," Claman said, adding that Suse and Red Hat were two of the distributions the company will be supporting.

Dell already offers Red Hat and Suse Linux for corporates. But Claman made it clear to ZDNet UK that Dell has no intention of supporting naked PCs for anything other than the corporate market. "We will not sell any product unless we are confident that we can offer the complete Dell experience," said Claman. "We are happy to sell products to corporate customers who have their own agreements with the suppliers and their own contracts for software support and so on."

For SMEs and individual customers it is almost impossible to buy a PC without Windows already installed. ZDNet UK carried out an investigation earlier this year into the provision of naked PCs. We found it impossible to buy any system without Windows, and extremely difficult to win any refund on unused Windows software.

"What does the customer do when something goes wrong?" said Claman. "We have to know we can offer the right products and especially the right support and quality of service [that] customers will expect from Dell."