"Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself."
Is Dell's new Linux initiative doomed to failure?
There is some evidence.
Having recently separated myself from Dell, and having worked the next test bench over from where some Ubuntu testing was going on, I have some opinions that I hope are worth expressing.
Internally, Dell's management has noted that the IdeaStorm interest in Linux, while relatively high, consists of less than 1% of the market compared to Dell's Windows client/consumer systems sales. Not good numbers.
Others have already recognized that the retail price will inevitably be the same or higher than the Windows-equivalent system.
The strategy is only a 3-system "market test." There is no evidence (yet) that these Ubuntu systems won't be buried in the deepest dark hole the way the much better (in my opinion) n-Series systems currently are. Parity is not a marketing standard, concept or idea: Marketing sees only bias, they seem to thrive on it.
There is no evidence (revealed at my level) that marketing dollars will be spent equally in web-site ads, TV ads, other ads, or on the dell.com sales site.
Dell's previous attempt to sell Linux on client/consumer systems went from 1999-2001, and failed miserably. Some of those mistakes Dell seems destined to repeat. Corps do not learn from their history, for the most part.
The 'Dell recommends MS' tags are found on current dell.com pages that sell Linux systems, there is no reason to expect that that won't continue. See Dell PrecisionTM open-source Desktops with Linux for example.
I disagree with those who say that this move increases the relative value of Dell stock. Maybe in the long long term, but my Crystal Ball does not extend that far. (See disclaimer at the bottom of this post.)
This market test is US-only, so far.
For non-US news, there is a BBC article at Dell to use Ubuntu on Linux PCs. There has also been significant testing by Dell of Linux in the China market.
If a "lot of folks" express interest, it will not affect Dell, unless Linux becomes, say about, 10% of Dell's consumer/client sales. From the above 1% stat, that means increasing by 10x the interest there is now: And that interest must translate into sales: Dell is not interested in any other metric.
Finally, back to the original thesis: Dell is insensitive to customers wants/needs because one of their offered systems will be the Dell Dimension E520/E521, which the Linux community has already widely rejected as being "too buggy to be worth the time." Knowing this, Dell is going ahead anyway with that as their main offering: This is how-to-make-project-fail textbook-style.
(DISCLAIMER: The above is my personal opinion, feel free to shoot it down at your leisure.)