Increasingly-less-direct box shifter Dell
has quietly started to offer Ubuntu Linux on its high-end XPS laptops as an option for those who don't want to pay for Windows Vista.
The XPS M1330 comes with Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) pre-loaded if you decide not to line Uncle Bill's pockets, and interestingly has support for DVD video playback right out of the box – something that a homebrew install of Ubuntu would be lacking until additional software is apt-getted.
The XPS M1330 with Ubuntu is currently only available in the UK, France, and Spain, with US customers being asked to wait for a couple of weeks before they'll be allowed to slake their Linux thirst.
Although Dell has offered Ubuntu as an option on certain laptops for quite some time, it's mostly been at the low end with the Vostro and Inspiron series of laptops. This new offering marks the first time Dell has put Ubuntu forward as a serious option for power users (i.e. The people likely to shell out top dollar for the desktop-replacement XPS series), which shows that Linux on the desktop is rapidly becoming a viable – if not popular – option for consumers.
That said, the company is still doing its best not to irritate Microsoft too much: although the M1330 is by far the most powerful laptop Dell has ever sold with Linux preloaded, it's the bottom of the XPS range. Currently Ubuntu isn't available on the M1530 and M2010 models, although this could well change if consumer take-up of the open-source OS on the M1330 is brisk.
As a Ubuntu user myself – and yes, I know I should “learn a proper Linux” before anyone says it – I'm pleased to see that Dell, always a staunch Microsoft support, believes in the desktop-oriented distribution enough to offer it to the mainstream.
Anyone in the market for a high-end laptop and thinking this would make a nice way to skim money off the full cost, or is Ubuntu a bit too scary for you? Let us know your thoughts in the forums