Questar, an Italian-based computer seller, has begun to ship Optiplex business desktops loaded with Linspire 4.5, a version of Linux, and a copy of OpenOffice, an open-source alternative to Microsoft's Office software package. The basic Questar computer, with a 2.4GHz Celeron processor, sells for about $562.
Dell spokesman Jeremy Bolen acknowledged that Questar is selling Dell PCs with Linux, but noted Dell's dealers are allowed to customize their machines. Although Dell mostly sells its PCs directly to customers, the Texas-based PC giant has an army of integrators and resellers that sell its machines. Often, these integrators are located overseas, where the direct sales model is not as broadly accepted.
Bolen added that this isn't the first time Dell PCs have come with Linux and that Dell isn't itself selling the machines, an inaccuracy that appeared in several news reports and seems to have come from language in Questar's press release.
Dell will honor the warranties on the hardware but will not provide service and support for any issues with the software. "It is not Dell factory installed," Bolen explained.
In 1999,as a customizable option on its consumer desktops. "Demand was low, so we discontinued offering it," Bolen said.
Although it dropped the consumer option, Dell made Linux available to corporate customers that signed on for factory configuration services. Dell has also continuously offered Linux on servers and workstations for a number of years. Dell's Linux partner is Red Hat Software; the PC maker has no relationship with Linspire, Bolen said.
Even with Dell's consumer Linux option gone, savvy buyers can still get afrom the company. Dell's n-Series of Dimension and Optiplex desktops come with no preloaded operating system. (Because licensing agreements require that Dell ship at least a single operating system with its PCs, the company includes a disk of an open-source version of DOS in the box.)