I was so excited to hear this news that my earlier posting was just to release some excitement. I heard some rumors going around a few days ago about a possible business negotiation between Dell and Canonical, but that type of thing has seemed to always remain a rumor, or has become a disappointment. Implementation is everything, and the success of this project is very dependent of how it is presented to the public. Dell has offered Linux on the desktop before with little success, and Linux on their server’s for years however all of this is not easily located on their website. Formerly, only select models had Linux as an option, and none of these were anywhere close to the front page. How Dell will present Ubuntu remains to be seen.
However, if Dell can make this into a profitable venture with sustaining momentum, then this can very well make other hardware vendors (which have had disappointing sales this year) eager to adopt Linux as well. HP and IBM are already huge supporters of Linux outside of the desktop market, so the idea shouldn’t be that foreign. Once the big names are in place, the rest is easy to guess.
The life of Linux on the mainstream desktop depends heavily on what industry analysts refer to as “critical mass”. Enough people have to be using the software to make it an attractive target for software manufactures, and the right software has to be available to make the idea of using Linux attractive to an average user. The biggest reason Linux hasn’t taken off, argue the industry analysts, is because no one outside of computer enthusiasts is likely to reformat their computer to run Linux. Ship it installed from the factory, and users might embrace it.
The worst that can happen for Linux is if it is presented again by Dell as an option, and is met with little enthusiasm. Two strikes is enough to make most profit-driven companies closed to the idea of supporting Linux. Hopefully the participants in IdeaStorm (myself included) can help make this venture profitable for Dell. Every day spent in a world where a closed company drives almost the entire industry is a day when that company becomes harder to compete against. It really is in everyone’s best interests to have this open platform alternative succeed.