Dell signs investment and preloading deal with Linux vendor –

Dell Computer Corp. has agreed to invest in Linux software maker Eazel Inc. and to preload that company's applications on all its laptop and desktop PCs that are sold with the open-source operating system.

The deal with Mountain View, Calif.-based Eazel is scheduled to be officially announced on Monday, a Dell spokesman said. Under the agreement, he added, Eazel's Linux-based Nautilus desktop shell will be preloaded on Dell's Linux-based machines, giving users the option of using that product or the desktop software built into Red Hat Inc.'s version of Linux.

Dell pursued the deal with Eazel as part of a strategy aimed at making Linux more user-friendly, in this case through the addition of a Windows-like desktop environment, the spokesman said. He declined to disclose the amount of the investment the PC maker's Dell Ventures subsidiary is making in Eazel.

Even while it remains one of Microsoft Corp.'s biggest partners, Dell has become increasingly vocal in its support of the open-source Linux operating system. For example, CEO Michael Dell was a featured speaker earlier this year at the LinuxWorld conference in San Jose, where he praised Eazel's software for its ease of use.

However, the Eazel software isn't generally available yet. Eazel released a second beta-test version of Nautilus this month and said it plans to start commercial shipments in the first quarter of next year. Dell expects to start offering the software with its PCs at that time, according to the two companies.

Currently, Eazel offers users an online software catalog aimed at helping them locate new Linux applications and simplify the process of installing those packages. The deal with Dell also gives users a 30-day free trial to those services, which Eazel eventually plans to offer on an application service provider basis.

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