Dell is the latest in a line of IT industry heavyweights to put its weight behind Linux.
The PC company said today it has purchased a minority stake in Linux software company Red Hat - its first equity investment - and will install the Linux operating system on a number of its Poweredge servers and Precision workstations.
Terms of the investment were not disclosed.
Other companies to recently invest in Red Hat and pledge support for the Windows alternative include IBM, Compaq and Intel.
Dell said it also plans to offer Red Hat Linux pre-installed on its Optiplex PCs during the second quarter of this year.
Robert Young, co founder and chief executive of Red Hat, commented: "Our expanded partnership with Dell represents a broad commitment by both companies to make Red Hat Linux a success in the corporate marketplace."
Dell has already signed up a US customer, Burlington Coat Factory, to buy 1,250 Optiplex desktops with Linux installed.
According to IDC, more than 10 million users currently run the Linux operating system and the research company predicts that over the next four years, total Linux commercial shipments will grow faster than the total shipments of all other client and server operating system environments.
The company said Linux commercial shipments will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 25 per cent from now until 2003 compared with 10 per cent for all other client operating system environments and 12 per cent for all other server operating systems.
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