So when can we get our hands on Ubuntu Dells? And do we want to?

With quite a bit of fanfare in the geek community, Dell began selling desktops and laptops to consumers today preloaded with Ubuntu 7.04.

With quite a bit of fanfare in the geek community, Dell began selling desktops and laptops to consumers today preloaded with Ubuntu 7.04. The fanfare was not so obvious on the Dell homepage - if you didn't know to go directly to www.dell.com/linux, you were out of luck. That being said, the key here is that these systems are being offered to consumers only. No large quantities, no educational pricing. Dell has been offering their N-series desktops to institutions for a while now with no OS installed, but still hasn't made a move to offer their N-series machines running Ubuntu to the likes of us in Ed Tech.

Unfortunately, this is probably one area in which Ubuntu might have particular value, given the lower price point of the Ubuntu machines (more on that later) and a growing, active community of folks looking to secure educational desktops with something other than Vista (and who can't afford Macs). Don't get me wrong...Vista is actually a very nice OS, but by and large, it's eye candy and there are a lot of us who have been looking for first-tier OEM support of an open source OS.

We're also, of course, looking to save money, since it tends to be fairly scarce in these parts. A quick comparison of comparably equipped Ubuntu and Windows laptops configured on the Dell website netted a savings of about $180. This involved a fairly robust configuration (2GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, upgraded hard drive, high resolution monitor, etc.) and I included Windows Vista Business on the Windows machine since this is the most appropriate choice in our environment. However, money is money and for groups without a significant investment in Microsoft platforms already, this can represent a significant value.

One item of note when talking about value: Dell wants $275 for a year of support from Canonical, so if you don't already know your way around a Linux desktop, look elsewhere. For $275, I can build a desktop machine and download and install Ubuntu for free. The real value here is in new implementations of Linux by people who have used Linux successfully before and want hardware guaranteed to work with their distro. Dell also offers a decent set of peripherals that have solid Linux drivers, further reducing potential problems with a Linux rollout.

Oh yeah, that's right - this discussion is currently moot, since my grandmother can buy an Ubuntu Dell, but my choices are limited to Vista Ultimate, Business, or Enterprise. Decisions, decisions. Come on, Dell...If you're going to support Linux, support Linux for the people who can benefit from it the most. By the way, here are a couple of screenshots from the laptop configurations I threw together on dell.com. Notice that the model suffixed with an N is the Ubuntu-loaded model. Ironically, even on these pages, "Dell recommends Windows Vista Home Premium."

The E1505N came in almost $200 below the Windows-loaded model:

Ubuntu Dell

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And now with Vista Business:

Vista Dell