Is Dell Linux's new best friend?

Dell aims to make life easier for corporate users who prefer Linux, when it announces on Monday a new pre-load deal involving Gnome and Eazel

Dell Computer is set to give its "third strategic operating system" -- aka, Linux -- a major shot in the arm next Monday, when it is expected to unveil a pre-load deal for the Gnome Linux desktop on Dell business PCs.

Dell will announce a partnership with Eazel, and possibly other companies backing the Gnome desktop environment. Dell also will announce that it is taking a stake of an undisclosed amount in Linux software vendor Eazel, Dell officials confirmed.

Eazel has developed a shell, called Nautilus, that integrates file management, system management, and browsing capabilities. Dell is also expected to offer to interested Linux customers, via Gnome, access to Eazel Services, which currently include Eazel Online Storage and Eazel Software Catalogue -- a collection of Linux applications; and other related software.

Dell is expected to begin pre-loading Gnome 1.4 in January, which is when that release of the desktop environment becomes available.

A call to Helix Code, the company that is commercializing the GNOME desktop, was not returned before this article was published. An Eazel spokesman confirmed that Eazel would announce a deal Monday with "a major OEM," but declined to make further comment.

Dell confirmed that it is that OEM [original equipment manufacturer]. It said that it will announce on Monday a deal to preload for Linux customers Gnome 1.4 on Dell's various business workstations, PCs, and notebooks. Michael Massetti, director of software marketing for client products, said that Dell's goal was to make using Linux PCs as easy as possible.

"Eazel's Software Catalogue and Update services will make it possible to keep up with patches, utilities, and drivers," Massetti said. "Right now, people have to go all over the Internet to get their open source software."

Although it has been a long-time friend of Microsoft, Dell recently has been polishing its Linux profile.

In August, Dell chief executive Michael Dell provided one of the main keynote addresses at the LinuxWorld trade show in San Jose, California. In June, Dell christened Linux as its "third, strategic global operating system," alongside Windows and Novell's NetWare. The One Source Linux alliance forged by Dell and Red Hat was designed to meet the growing demand for Linux among customers, in particular those using Linux as part of their Internet infrastructure backbone.

Dell customers currently can order Red Hat Linux preinstalled on a variety of Intel-based servers and PCs, including Dell's PowerEdge and PowerApp servers, Dell Precision workstations, Dell OptiPlex and Dimension desktop PCs, and Dell Latitude and Inspiron notebooks.

Dell has made investments in five open-source companies to date: CollabNet, LinuxCare, Red Hat, TurboLinux, and VMWare. Massetti declined to provide either a dollar figure or percentage figure on the size of the Eazel investment that Dell will unveil next week.

Find out how the open source movement is revolutionising the high-tech world at the Linux Lounge.

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.

Editorial standards