Today, Dell released their first line of computers preloaded with the Ubuntu operating system. This most promising alternative to Windows is used by Michael Dell himself on his primary computer.
The importance of the release goes beyond the benefit of having a choice of operating system when you shop at Dell. The importance lies in the fact that Dell has a mighty influence over hardware vendors. One of the greatest stumbling blocks for Linux has been the lack of hardware support, since there is no financial incentive for hardware vendors to support an operating system with no major OEM support. And if there's no hardware support, then the major OEMs have no incentive to provide Ubuntu.
If these systems sell to expectations, and Dell can continue producing new models preloaded with Ubuntu, Dell will(and already is) leverage its influence to force hardware vendors to fully support Linux in its hardware driver software.
The downside of their current offering is that Dell isn't preloading media codecs that require royalties to be paid(MP3, DVD playback, etc.). This means any normal user who wants to use these common media formats will have to acquire them illegally. Dell is working to be able to offer these codecs eventually, though.
Lastly, the new systems are not available through the main website links, but you have to go to http://www.dell.com/open in order to find these systems. Dell explicitly states that they intend the current offerings for people who already know what they're doing. Hopefully, as the system-wide support becomes comparable with Windows, they will simply include Ubuntu in the drop-down list of available operating systems.
Here here! Hooray for Dell and Ubuntu!