The products, the Latitude CPX and the Inspiron 7500, come with Red Hat Linux 6.1 and are certified by Linuxcare, a representative said. The Inspirons with Linux are available now, but the Latitudes will be available Feb. 4, according to a company representative. The move has been expected since last August.
The CPX is the top-of-the-line model of Dell's Latitude line, slimmer and more expensive than the Inspirons, which are designed to be more like replacements for desktop computers. The price for the Linux models is the same as for the Windows 98 models, the representative said.
Dell has been selling servers, workstations and business desktops with Linux preinstalled. All major hardware companies offer servers guaranteed to work with Linux, a clone of the network-friendly Unix operating system, but comparatively few have been offering Linux for laptops. One hurdle: Laptops often come with proprietary hardware that's more difficult for Linux programmers to support, though informal sites such as Linux on Laptops offer extensive help.
IBM also has made sure Linux works with a model of its ThinkPad laptops, but there were issues with the Windows-only modem and other hardware features. Dell got around the modem problem by using a PC Card modem, the Dell representative said.
Most of the demand for Dell's Linux systems has been from customers in academia and government, the representative said, adding that the Linux laptops could be useful for people such as engineers who have to work in the field.
Dell has invested in two competing Linux companies, Red Hat and TurboLinux.