Will HP Follow Dell With Ubuntu Linux PCs?

Includes: DELL, HPQ
by: Joe Panettieri

Initially, I was skeptical about Dell's (NASDAQ:DELL) decision to sell selected consumer PCs with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed.

But after a few days of testing, I'm a skeptic no more. And I'm not alone. Dell insiders tell me that the Ubuntu PCs, introduced in late May, are selling well -- though they decline to share exact sales figures with me.

Dell's initial success with Ubuntu apparently has caught Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE:HPQ) attention. Sources close to HP tell me the company hope to offer PCs with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed in a few months -- or perhaps even a few weeks.

Growing interest in Ubuntu Linux is easy to explain. After all, Ubuntu is simple to use and friendlier than Windows in some (but certainly not all) ways. For instance, Ubuntu boots up fast -- really fast -- and isn't bogged down with dozens of desktop icons or menu options that you'll never use. Nor does it require certain types of security software that can further slow down your PC's performance.

It took me about five minutes to figure out the basics of Ubuntu's graphical user interface. Len Sandy, a fellow blogger who also purchased a Dell system running Ubuntu, says there are at least five reasons why some consumers will prefer Ubuntu over Windows. Like me, he notes that Ubuntu's user interface is easy to learn.

Alas, Ubuntu isn't perfect and it isn't for everyone. In fact, there are at least four reasons why many consumers won't want Ubuntu Linux on their PCs.

Still, Dell is successfully targeting a key market niche: Frustrated users who want a viable, fast, secure alternative to Windows. And Ubuntu -- like Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Mac OS -- is a welcome option worth considering.

In the months ahead, more PC makers will surely embrace Ubuntu -- especially as the mainstream media catches on to Ubuntu's momentum. In fact, the CEO of ZaReason -- a small Ubuntu PC maker -- expects another major PC maker to enter the Ubuntu market within the next six to 12 months.

That move will likely come sooner. According to several Ubuntu online forums, HP plans to introduce PCs with Ubuntu pre-installed within the next few weeks. I'm hearing similar chatter from my sources.

The noise surrounding Ubuntu will grow louder this July, when Dell and Intel sponsor a major Linux event in Oregon.

This was supposed to be the year of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Vista, which has sold more than 40 million licenses. That's certainly impressive. But if HP ships PCs with Ubuntu pre-installed, it will be the latest indicator that competition is alive and well in the desktop software market.

(Note: The author is Long on Dell stock but doesn't have any other PC industry holdings.)