The deal will be similar to a program announced earlier today by Hewlett-Packard, said sources, but also will involve workstations. HP will begin to market a version of the Linux OS from Red Hat Software on certain models of its NetServer line.
In addition, HP is developing a program with Red Hat to make it easier for corporate customers to both acquire and maintain their Linux-based hardware.
Dell currently bundles Windows NT as a standard feature on its workstations. Dell actually sells servers with the Linux OS, but does not encourage the practice. Customers can only get Linux as a custom option, and it costs an additional $249.
If Dell goes through with the program, it could represent a small historical break with Microsoft. Historically, Dell hardware has served as a vehicle for Microsoft software. Alternative software products, by contrast, are difficult to get. A copy of Netscape Navigator, for instance, which is ordinarily free, will run $60 from Dell.
Linux has been gaining market share in the Intel server market over the past year, partly because it is much cheaper than Windows NT. Commercial versions of Linux can cost $50. Windows NT, meanwhile, can run $750 per seat.
Dell officials declined to comment.