Could HP be approaching factory-loaded Linux desktops or notebooks? With several thousand custom orders coming in for such configurations and an obvious open community (as seen by Dell's public feedback forum), it's a definite possibility. Management at HP has commented on the situation, saying they are considering offering standard systems with a preloaded distro of Linux, which would be an industry first for desktops and notebooks:
"We are involved in a number of massive deals for Linux desktops, and those are the kinds of things that are indicators of critical mass. So we are really looking at it very hard," said Doug Small, worldwide director of open source and Linux marketing at HP. "We are in a massive deal right now for ... multi-thousands of units of a desktop opportunity for Linux. That's an indicator." He declined to give details about the Linux deals.
Other companies, such as InTech solutions, have also commented that desktop Linux is reaching a point where demand may be sufficient enough to warrant standard systems. Whether or not that includes support is up in the air, though as we've seen with enterprise configurations it is rare they wouldn't couple hardware and software without some form of integrated support.
It isn't a question of the market being there, anymore, but rather of whether or not the market is large enough to warrant big vendors selling to it. HP does have some plans already scheduled for improvements in “delivery of Linux solutions”, but details aren't being made available.