Thats one small step for Linux, but perhaps a giant leap for consumers who would like something besides Microsofts Windows operating system on their PC.

Dell Computer has announced that Linux-based Ubuntu will come pre-installed on some Dell PCs in the coming weeks.

Smaller PC dealers have long featured Ubuntu and other Linux-based software. One of the best-known is Linux Certified, which also offers training classes and support.

Ubuntu is a community-developed, Linux-based operating system that is designed for laptops, desktops and servers. It includes a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and other software.

"Many people are scared away from Linux because they think it's complicated," said one longtime computer user. "It's a lot simpler than anything Microsoft ever made. With Ubuntu, you literally just plug it in and turn it on."

It is supported by Canonical, Ltd, a South African software company.

In its new partnership with Canonical, Dell will offer Ubuntu 7.04 on select desktop and notebook products.

"We believe that Dells decision is a strong endorsement of Ubuntu and to the work of many in coding, translating and promoting open source software, said Jane Silber, Canonicals Director of Operations. It is also testament to the demand that exists for Ubuntu.

Dell said the decision to offer a Linux-based operating system originated with consumers.

In February when Dell launched a forum called IdeaStorm for customers to contribute ideas for product offerings, the company said it was inundated with requests for Linux on desktops and notebooks.

Canonical says Ubuntu will always be free of charge, including enterprise releases and security updates.

Ubuntu CDs contain only free software applications; we encourage you to use free and open source software, improve it and pass it on, the company said in a statement on its Web site.