It's finally official. Dell's Ubuntu Linux PCs now come with the latest build of the operating system, version 8.04. That may not seem like news, but it's actually a significant move by Dell. Here's why.

Microsoft recently began its latest Windows Vista offensive, this time trying to assure partners and customers that they can migrate to Vista with confidence. Sure, Dell supports Vista -- but the PC giant also supports customer choice.
Dell began offering Ubuntu on selected consumer PCs about a year ago. The VAR Guy has one (and, full disclosure, he loves it). But this is the year that Ubuntu was supposed to move from geek users to a broader set of consumers -- thanks to the release of Ubuntu 8.04 in April 2008.

Canonical, Ubuntu's primary backer, had a lot at stake with version 8.04 (known as Hardy Heron). Not only a desktop upgrade, 8.04 also includes a range of server enhancements. At the same time, Canonical has had its hands full developing Ubuntu for sub-notebooks and mobile Internet devices (so-called Ubuntu NetBooks). As a result, Canonical risked biting off more than it could chew in 2008. And a buggy 8.04 release could have soured Dell on Ubuntu, and crippled the Linux desktop movement.

Instead, one-year into its Ubuntu desktop journey, Dell is giving the operating system another strong vote of confidence. The PC giant still doesn't plan to offer Ubuntu on the server. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Dell's endorsement of Ubuntu on the desktop remains a big win for the desktop Linux industry.

Sure, smaller Ubuntu-focused PC companies like System76 and ZaReason deserve credit for making early moves to Ubuntu 8.04. But Dell's endorsement carries more weight for traditional consumers who are starting to explore Linux.

You can find more info about Dell's Ubuntu support here: