It's official: Dell is going to be shipping Ubuntu Linux pre-installed on some of their computers soon, possibly even by the end of the month! This is great news for the Linux community - finally one of the major computer manufacturers has decided to support the open-source software in the best way it can - by bundling Linux with their computers.
This could well be the real dawn of Linux on the desktop. Over the past decade, many people have claimed that each successive year would be the "year of Linux on the desktop". However, many commercial and practical limitations have prevented the operating system from gaining sufficient momentum to overcome it's proprietary competitors and begin to exhibit itself as a layman's OS, not just a geek plaything. I believe that some factors are now coming into play that could change this state of affairs, allowing Linux to begin entering the desktop market it has so far been deprived of. In particular, 2 main issues are being visibly addressed right now:
1.) For many, the main limitation of Linux has been it's User-friendliness, or lack thereof. Sure, GNOME and KDE have advanced a lot over the years, but they still lack the polished and integrated feel of Mac OS, and yes, even Windows. Even if some of the basic functions are easy to use, the average user won't have a clue how to respond to an error message saying "init: Id "23" respawning too fast: disabled for 5 minutes." This problem will be largely solved with the release of KDE4, which introduces a new era of Linux GUIs where usability is at a prime. Both the visual and functional status of KDE4 is excellent, and although it is not yet released, when it is finished in October/November this year it will be the best UI Linux has had yet. The problem of usablity also relates to the next one:
2.) Publicity. [Nearly] Everyone who is up-to-date with technology knows about Linux. However, most of the operating system market resides with inexperienced users, who know nothing about Linux, or even Mac OS. This problem is beginning to decrease, with commercial entities such as Red Hat and Novell taking up the development and marketing of Linux. This also has the added advantage of enhanced integration between OS components, as the various companies each try to produce the best distribution. With Dell beginning to distribute Linux with it's PCs, more of the public will be able to experience Linux without having to know how to rebuild the kernel, use yum, xterm, or restart the X server.
Is it the beginning of the "year of Linux"? It's a bit early to tell right now, but with Vista not delivering all that the public wants and Dell moving into Linux, I think that "Tux" the penguin has his best chance yet to put his best foot forward and show the world what Linux can do!