At first glance, Dell's Ubuntu Linux strategy has hit a couple of bumps in recent weeks. But The VAR Guy has done some digging and learned that Dell and Canonical are working on a few surprises that could bolster Ubuntu's presence in PC markets around the globe. Here's the scoop.

Let's start with two recent hiccups:
  • Dell's U.S. website (Dell.com/Ubuntu) in mid-2009 stopped selling Ubuntu on desktop PCs, though a netbook and notebook option with Ubuntu remain available. A Dell spokeswoman in late July told The VAR Guy that Dell would introduce a new desktop PC in early August. Fast forward to the present (Aug. 28) and Dell still hasn't made good on that statement.
  • Free Software Magazine on Aug. 24 posted an Open Letter to Michael Dell, alleging technical issues with a Dell Inspiron Mini 10 running Ubuntu. Dell's own social media employees have posted replies offering immediate help, but the open letter has since gone viral on the web.
Basically, Dell has a PR problem on its hands: Customers and readers are wondering (A) if Dell is committed to offering new Ubuntu desktops and (B) if the Free Software Magazine article involves a single, isolated issue or indicates broader problems with Dell's engineering.

Good News Coming

The VAR Guy isn't a Dell Ubuntu netbook user, but generally speaking he hears good things about the mobile devices. The upshot: Free Software Magazine's open letter to Dell may have involved an isolated incident rather than a broad engineering issue with Dell's systems. Admittedly, that's speculation on The VAR Guy's part.

Now, the bigger question: Is Dell committed to Ubuntu? Multiple sources say absolutely yes.

Dell PR has been somewhat quiet in recent weeks. However, a source close to the Dell-Ubuntu efforts states the following:
"There will be more [Dell Ubuntu] desktop  and notebook SKUs and the relationship will be more global then ever next year... there will be plenty of Ubuntu/Canonical and Dell good news stories in the near future."
The VAR Guy trusts his source and suspects a range of Dell announcements are on the way. In a potential sign of things to come, Dell now offers Ubuntu as a preinstalled option on Latitude laptops in the Netherlands. And recent Dell statements indicate that nearly one-third of the company's netbooks ship with Linux preinstalled.

Has Dell made some errors in the way it markets Ubuntu systems? Yes. Is the company committed to introducing more systems (including desktop PCs) with Ubuntu? Here again, the answer is yes.

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