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Dell jumps into preconfigured Linux Web sales

But it's not a breach with Microsoft, honest...

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Dell has finally jumped into preinstalled Linux sales, and has backed the move up with an investment in Red Hat. The PC company will initially be selling PowerEdge servers and Precision workstations off the Web with Red Hat preinstalled, and intends to add Linux OptiPlex in the second quarter. Calendar specialists will note that it already is the second quarter, so we can expect Dell to be mounting a full-scale Linux push any day now. No word as yet on portables or international sales, however - as yet, the Linux operation would appear to be US only. Dell has historically supplied selected corporate customers with machines running Linux, but hasn't shouted about it. The policy has been widely viewed as Dell not wishing to get too involved, but being willing to co-operate if somebody big enough shouted loud enough and/or threatened to take their business elsewhere. The latest initiative is several hops beyond that. The Red Hat investment means far closer co-operation in getting Linux to run easily on Dell systems, Dell itself is shouting about it, and the company is also ready to sell Linux systems to any customers who want to buy them. It's obviously a big breakthrough for Linux in the PC market. Dell itself is somewhat humorously still trying to talk it down, however. It also announced a sizeable deal with US clothing retailer Burlington Coat Factory, for 1,250 Linux systems to be installed in 264 Burlington sites. This is not, says Dell, a blow against Microsoft and Windows, because the Burlington deal in particular and its Linux initiative in general are aimed at expanding Dell sales in the Unix market. Considering what Microsoft wants to do with the Unix market and with this class of customer, this isn't much of a fig leaf for Dell if it wants to stay pals with Redmond. Unix systems have a serious presence in retail that Microsoft wants to win for NT, and it expects 'allies' like Dell to back it up here. 'Allies' like Dell selling preconfigured Linux systems off the Web to all and sundry also strikes at Microsoft's borad-range Windows business. Not a challenge to Microsoft? Oh no sir... ®

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