US retailer to sell boxed version Ubuntu Linux

It includes a quick start guide, 60 days of support for new users

US consumers who want to try Ubuntu Linux but are intimidated by the idea of downloading and installing it themselves now have a less stressful option -- they can walk into their local Best Buy store and pick up a boxed version with support for US$19.99.

Since the first Ubuntu Linux operating system was released in October 2004, the software has been free to download and use. But that wasn't always an option for users with slow Internet connections or those who lacked adequate technical experience to download and install a new operating system.

Those are some of the reasons for Ubuntu's move Wednesday, said Steve George, director of corporate services for Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu around the globe. The news was officially announced Wednesday by George in Canonical's blog, detailing how customers will get 60 days of support as well as a quick start guide when buying the retail-boxed package.

"This is really about reaching a different sort of user who isn't necessarily aware that you can get it online" as a free download, George said. "It's trying to present them with the proposition of a boxed set, along with language that's appropriate for them. Installing an operating system for most users is a bit of a big step, so having the support and helping them get up and running" is beneficial.

"Others know its available as a free download but they don't have the bandwidth to do it, so it's an easy way for them to get Ubuntu," he said.

Ubuntu has been available as a free download since its beginning, but users were also able to order it cheaply on a CD or DVD if they couldn't easily download it, George said. Another option available since 2006 is to buy it online through Amazon.com on a CD, where it sells for US$12.99.

"There have always been ways in which you can buy Ubuntu [that have] always been in line with the free software mantra," he said. "This is really an extension" of that.

To produce the boxed set, Ubuntu and Canonical partnered with software retailer ValuSoft, a division of THQ , which sells a wide range of inexpensive software titles in many retail stores. Canonical trained the support staff at ValuSoft to provide support for Ubuntu, and Canonical support people are ready to assist with any escalated problems, he said.

The availability of Ubuntu Linux in Best Buy stores will depend upon each store location, George said. "Hopefully, Best Buy is just the first [chain to carry the product] and that ValuSoft and Canonical will be talking to other chains as well. We've never done this before. It's all about getting Ubuntu into other channels."

Nicole Armstrong, vice president of marketing at ValuSoft, said the Ubuntu software is the company's first foray into the Linux marketplace. "Several users within our organization have had some very positive experiences with Ubuntu," which led to the initial interest in the partnership, she said. "We know that broadband penetration isn't as widespread with casual users, so this is a way to bring Ubuntu to a broader audience."

Last month, Ubuntu released the first developer's version of its new Ubuntu Mobile Internet Device (MID) Edition 8.04 operating system, which is aimed at device manufacturers that build Internet-ready handheld devices based on Intel's Atom processors.

Also released last month was Ubuntu Linux Remix, a new operating system for use in the recent wave of small, low-cost, flash-drive-equipped, wireless "netbook" computers.

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