In a rather innovative move, Canonical, best known for developing the most popular free and open source operating system Ubuntu, is partnering with Dell to sell laptops preinstalled with the OS in stores across China. This move will affect around 200 stores and will definitely give the Ubuntu OS some much needed publicity if it is to become viable and popular in the future.
Back in 2007, Dell was selling products with Ubuntu preinstalled after what seemed like an increase in popularity. However, this move was aborted because it was noted that most of the polls were taken by Ubuntu users and promoters rather than potential customers. It was thought that a suggestion for Ubunntu when purchasing a laptop online would have been better. However, that was not implemented and instead Dell closed the scheme because of several complaints and mishaps. This is not the first attempt at retail sales by Canonical as back in 2008, Ubuntu CDs were sold in a few stores for $20 but the effect of it on the proliferation of Ubuntu is unknown even now.
This move to sell laptops preinstalled with Ubuntu, especially in China should have a more profound effect because of its known affinity for Unix based operating systems. This relies on the fact that several government agencies use open source software in an effort to eliminate piracy though most of them use Red Flag Linux, a distribution native to China rather than any popular international version.
These laptops for now will be sold with Ubuntu 11.10, the latest version and the usual upgrade policy is applicable. The latest one is evidence that the OS is evolving since it was first released but there are still some technical deficiencies such as missing drivers for hardware. Hopefully Dell can set all this right but even then the popularity among average PC users is still open for debate.