I've had thoughts along the same lines. Offer up a Linux computer with a suite of applications installed so you can get to work. Same thing everone did when Microsoft was a scrappy kid on the block and everbody offered MS apps for free.
As you've probably seen on digg by now, Dell recently started a site (dellideastorm.com) that asks for their customers' ideas on what Dell should do in the future. These ideas have ranged from eliminating that crapola pre-installed software that they ship on all their machines to bringing phone tech support back to Texas. But the single most requested (by a margin of 2 to 1) item has been to offer Linux pre-installed as an option to Windows. In fact, 3 of the top 5 requests have been to offer free libre open source software pre-installed. Those being Linux, OpenOffice.org, and Firefox. My little brain still wonders WHY HAVEN'T THEY DONE THIS BEFORE???
I can *sorta* understand the Linux option because half of Dell's customers don't know what it is and it would require Dell do some serious support for those people. I can even *sorta* understand the FF option because 80% (or so I think) of the world's interneters don't know what it is and would wonder if it's just a different internet, and if so, how on earth do they read their email anymore. Not to mention that installing another browser beside IE on the desktop would probably violate one of the old secret license agreements that MS got SUED over when they threatened Compaq for installing Netscape on their Windows machines. Regardless, you know those license terms are still 'round and livin' large.
Oh, and OpenOffice.org?? What's in it for Dell? nothing, just some valueadd. No one's going to pay Dell to install it. Not like AOL or mcaffee pays for their crap. Dell's in so deep with these swindlers that there's just no room to move. Honestly, it's not going to be Dell or HP or Sony or any of the other big PC venders that make these moves. We've seen it first coming from smaller venders like System76 (www.system76.com)
It won't be until Dell sees a tangible marketshare loss to someone other than HP that they'll start kickin' their bad habits and try something new. The biggest catalyst for that kind of change would be if someone like Apple made a splash or IBM bedding down with Novell and/or RH and/or Ubuntu for a hot desktop three-way. Then maybe Dell and HP and all the others will let Ballmer know that now he's just funny, but not in a funny way.