I just picked this up from ZDNet, another of my favorite sites for picking up industry news. Dell has signed a deal with Canonical, the makers of Ubuntu Linux, to provide support for Ubuntu on it’s consumer PC line. This isn’t the first time Dell has tried to enter the Linux fray, but word has it this time will be different.

I think this is actually a huge deal for Linux on the desktop and there are a couple of reasons why I think this will fly. First of all, Ubuntu is hugely popular in the Linux world, especially with people who are, not necessarily zealots, but really want to get into Linux with low overhead. And from what I can see, and apparently what Dell has found out, that’s a lot of people. I’m probably in that category and a lot of the articles I’ve read about Ubuntu are written by people in that category too.

The second big reason why this is different is the support deal with Canonical. Essentially, you can use Ubuntu on a Dell system without worrying about whether the drivers will work with all the hardware you’re buying. This has always been my major stumbling block with Linux (other than the crappy fonts :). I had Linux running on a Dell laptop five years ago and struggled to get things like suspend and the graphics display working correctly. This should address that. And the deal will ensure Canonical has a vested interest in making sure it works.

And vested they are. This has to be huge for Canonical. I always wondered how they intended on making money given all the investment they’ve made in Ubuntu to make it consumer friendly just to give it away for free. This is it, and I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve always thought that you can’t make money on Linux by selling it in a box. You make money selling services or other products that leverage Linux, just as we do with Eclipse.

This has clearly been Canonical’s strategy and they’ve started down a road where it’ll pay off. Making Ubuntu consumer friendly has actually created a market for Linux PCs. Dell is just responding to the desires of that market. Mind you, it’s not for the weak at heart and it really was a huge gamble, but luckily for Canonical, their CEO Mark Shuttleworth came with deep pockets to make it happen. But happening it is.