dell_ubuntuJust when I was getting nervous about Dell's Ubuntu Linux strategy, the PC giant delivered some good news at the OpenSource World conference in San Francisco, according to PC World. The Dell statements don't address all of my concerns but they do restore my faith in Dell's commitment to Ubuntu.

According to PC World:
[Dell] is researching the possibility of offering new Linux-based mobile devices called smartbooks, said Todd Finch, senior product marketing manager for Linux clients, at the OpenSourceWorld conference in San Francisco. The company will also upgrade its Ubuntu Linux OS for netbooks to the latest version in the next few weeks, he said.
No doubt, Dell needs to refresh its Ubuntu netbooks to keep pace with niche competitors. In recent days, System76 has enhanced the memory on its Starling Netbook. And ZaReason launched a Terra A10 netbook that's packed with options.

Back to Dell

I met Finch and other Dell Linux staff members back in June (here's a video interview with Finch and his peers). I was impressed with their personal focus and commitment to Ubuntu and other Linux flavors. But the "larger" corporate Dell sometimes makes me nervous.

Sometime around July, Dell's U.S. website stopped selling desktop PCs with Ubuntu preinstalled. Dell's Ubuntu portfolio (see www.Dell.com/ubuntu) seemed thin to me -- offering only one netbook and two laptop options. A Dell spokeswoman assured ComputerWorld and then assured me that a new Ubuntu PC would debut soon. Last I heard, Dell expected that PC to debut the week of Aug. 2. But here we are on Aug. 13 and the new Ubuntu system remains missing in action.

Now the Good News

Still, Finch's statements at OpenSource World restore my faith in Dell's Ubuntu strategy. It's good to hear that Dell will finally step beyond Ubuntu 8.04 to offer a newer release on netbooks -- though I'm not sure if it's 9.04 or the forthcoming 9.10.

Also, I'm intrigued to hear more about Dell's Smartbook strategy.

As WorksWithU reported in July 2009, SmartBooks essentially are Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). Qualcomm is rallying hardware partners (OEMs, original equipment manufacturers) to introduce Smartbooks sometime in Q3 or Q4 2009.

Smartbooks can run a range of operating systems -- Google Android, Windows XP, Ubuntu and more. I'm curious: Will Ubuntu be Dell's platform of choice on Smartbooks?

Time will tell. For now, I'm pleased to hear Dell is embracing more recent Ubuntu releases on netbooks. Next, Dell's U.S. website needs to make good on a July promise to sell an Ubuntu-based PC desktop PC. Finally, I think Dell needs the www.Dell.com/ubuntu web site to list specific countries in which the company sells Ubuntu systems.

The biggest Ubuntu-related complaint I hear from readers typically involves Dell's decision not to offer certain Ubuntu systems in specific countries. Dell's Finch told me in June that such decisions are made on a region-by-region basis, based on local system customer demand. I understand his point but Dell needs to proactively communicate where it does -- and doesn't -- offer Ubuntu desktops, notebooks and netbooks around the world.

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