Dell finally shipping notebooks with Red Hat Linux

Which must make it time for IBM to wake up, right?

Dell is finally starting to ship notebooks with Red Hat Linux preinstalled, a full ten months after the company took a stake in Red Hat and made a public commitment to the OS. But despite it's apparent feet of clay, Dell's move - on two models - still gives it a marginal lead over other major PC companies, because Linux on laptops is hard. Dell's Linux support started with servers and workstations, then moved on to desktops, and then went kind of quiet until this week. During the intervening period rival IBM has made numerous supportive noises about Linux, but has also contrived to illustrate, embarrassingly, the issues involved in shipping Linux on notebook computers. A Red Hat certification for IBM ThinkPads running Linux escaped early, before IBM had actually done anything in the way of producing drivers for ThinkPad-specific hardware. As far as we're aware the situation at IBM hasn't changed since then, so Linux remains effectively an unsupported option on ThinkPads, in common with most other brands of laptop (although there's copious support available from enthusiasts if you're prepared to accept 'some assembly required). The major issues tend to be proprietary modem and audio hardware which make it difficult to produce open source drivers. Built in Winmodems in particular are a no-no as far as non-Windows operating systems are concerned, so shipping Linux on these models is tricky for manufacturers. Dell is currently offering the OS, using PC Card modems, on two models, the high spec Latitude CPX and the Inspiron 7500. They're the same price as versions with Windows preinstalled, and considering that Linux is free, we can't help wondering if this means Dell is paying MS the licence fee anyway. Surely not... ®

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