Firefox fans are using Dell's IdeaStorm website to press the PC maker to pre-install the open-source browser.

With Dell's announcement that it will offer Ubuntu Linux on some systems, the petition to put Firefox on new PCs has climbed to second place on IdeaStorm, behind a call to offer, a free application suite.

The Firefox pre-install petition has collected more than 70,000 votes since its introduction 19 February, a day after the site went live. Only the pleas for OpenOffice, with more than 96,000, and pre-installed Linux, with 132,000, have collected more votes.

SpreadFirefox, the home of Mozilla's community marketing programme, has also been urging fans of the browser to add their votes since February. The site urges users "to give a vote for Firefox and really make a difference."

"We're always looking for ways to reach new audiences," said Asa Dotzler, Mozilla's director of community development.l. "To date, the overwhelming majority of our users have come from people who download and install Firefox from the web, [but] we do have relationships with [resellers] and other distribution partners, and we'd be happy to add additional partners."

Dell did not return calls for comment.

Although Firefox's highest-profile partner is Google, which pays Mozilla millions because the browser defaults to the Google search engine, it has at times signed distribution agreements. Last year, for example, Mozilla struck a deal with RealNetworks to offer Firefox alongside RealPlayer.

In 2005, reports circulated that Dell's UK arm would ship PCs with Firefox pre-installed, but it turned out to be wishful thinking. Dell does not currently offer the browser as an option, even though CEO Michael Dell uses it on his home, Linux-powered laptop.

"A high-profile [reseller] like Dell certainly could increase Firefox visibility with those users who purchase Dell computers and don't seek out software beyond what is bundled on the computer," Dotzler said.

According to the latest numbers from Net Applications, a web metrics firm, Firefox now accounts for 15.4 percent of the browser market. Microsoft's Internet Explorer, though diminished somewhat in the past two years, still holds a commanding lead with 78 percent.