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Dell Releases Linux Desktops, Notebook

The computers, running the Ubuntu operating system, mark the highest-profile consumer market showcase yet for open-source software.
Toni Duboise, analyst for Current Analysis, said Dell was targeting more than just the Linux enthusiast. "This is definitely a commercial play," Duboise said.

Businesses interested in a Linux desktop and looking for a mid-tier computer would find the Dimension attractive because it's as much as $200 less than a similar Windows machine on Dell, Duboise said. "For a mid-tier offering, it's an assertive price-performance offering."

Despite Dell's entry, Linux on computers other than workstations and servers is expected to remain a niche market, at least for the foreseeable future. Part of the reason is the difficulty users are likely to experience in getting drivers for peripherals. Not all hardware vendors support Linux.

For example, one potential problem acknowledged by Dell is spotty multimedia support. The new machines don't include support for proprietary audio or video codecs that aren't distributed with Ubuntu. These include MPEG 1/2/3/4, WMA, WMV, DVD, Quicktime, and more. Dell has said it's working to improve multimedia support, and is also working with hardware vendors to get more Linux drivers.

Dell in April committed to offering Linux on consumer PCs, and said this month that it had chosen Ubuntu from several Linux distributions. The decision to offer pre-installed Linux followed an outpouring of requests from customers on Dell's feedback site, IdeaStorm.

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