Dell will officially launch three consumer PCs running the Ubuntu 7.04 Linux OS today.

The new models, two desktops and an Inspiron E1505n notebook PC, follow details that emerged yesterday. They give buyers a third choice when shopping for a PC at Dell: a machine with Windows installed, a machine with no OS, on which they can install one of their choice, and now a machine with Ubuntu Linux already installed.

Other PC makers, including Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo also sell PCs that run Linux, but mainly on customised machines, because retail demand for the open-source OS is tiny compared to that for Windows.

The PCs will be available in the US after 4 pm Central Time, on Dell's site. The laptop starts at US$599, while the two desktops, the Dimension E520 and XPS 410n, start from $599 and $849 each, respectively. A comparable XPS 410 with Windows Vista Premium costs $899.

Dell announced what flavor of Linux it would use in the PCs, Ubuntu 7.04, earlier this month. It's the same OS Michael Dell, the chairman and CEO of the company, uses on his Dell Precision M90 laptop at home.

Dell is targeting the Linux enthusiast market with the PCs, and said the choice of systems is a response to customer feedback collected Ideastorm, a site set up to solicit customer suggestions. Over 100,000 people participated in surveys about the systems and what kind of Linux to install in the machines, Dell said in a statement.

The three PCs all use Intel Core 2 Duo microprocessors. The two desktops contain 1 Gbyte of RAM and 250 Gbyte of hard disk space, while the laptop includes 512 Mbyte of RAM and an 80 Gbyte hard disk drive.

Users will be able to choose from several hardware options on their Ubuntu PCs from Dell. The options offered contain the most mature and stable Linux driver support, and Dell plans to work with vendors to ensure more devices include Linux driver support in the future, it said.

Dell is offering hardware support for the PCs through its existing channels, with basic software help from several dedicated Web sites and Linux forums. Canonical is offering software service upgrades from the Ubuntu site.

The company also created the Dell Linux Forum at Dell Community for users to find resources, troubleshoot, discuss issues and share experiences about the new PCs.