Dell launches US retail offensive

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Dell launches US retail offensive

Linux machines hit market as vendor announces major deal with the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart.

Dell has made its first Linux-powered machines available for purchase, and revealed a deal with US retailer, Wal-Mart. 

Both moves come as the company seeks to bolster sales in the face of declining popularity with consumers.

Dell began shipping two desktops and one laptop running Ubuntu 7.04 on Thursday. The desktops start at US$599 (A$731) and US$849 (A$1,037) respectively, and the laptop US$599. 

The move was driven entirely by customer demand, according to Dell, which said that more than 30,000 users asked for Linux machines on the company's IdeaStorm website.  

"It is fantastic to be able to offer what many Linux enthusiasts want: great Dell products with popular open source software for work and play," said Neil Hand, vice president of Dell's consumer product group.

The Linux machines are currently available only in the US. The company did not give a possible European release date.

Winning back the hearts of consumers, particularly home users and hobbyists, has become of chief importance to Dell as the company tries to regain lost ground in the consumer market.

After HP overtook Dell for the consumer crown early this year, many analysts blamed the decline on Dell's inefficient business model and neglect of the consumer end. 

After Michael Dell returned to his post as chief executive in February, many suggested that Dell could soon abandon its direct sales model and begin to offer PCs through major retailers. 

The rumours were confirmed when Lionel Menchaca, digital media manager at Dell, revealed on the Direct2Dell blog that the company will offer its Dimension E521 desktops in more than 3,000 Wal-Mart stores in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. 

Menchaca acknowledged that the move was made to expand Dell's reach in the consumer market, but argued that the retail expansion would "only augment our core direct business model, not replace it".

The Dell PCs will go on sale at Wal-Mart stores from 10 June.
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