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A Dell VAR on Tuesday began offering OptiPlex desktops for sale in Italy with a Linux operating system from Lindows.

Although the announcement was positioned as an official Dell release, a spokesman from Dell Inc.’s headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, said the program was not offered with Dell’s approval.

Questar, one of Dell’s Italian VARs, began offering two versions of Dell’s OptiPlex 170L desktop for as many as 749 euros Tuesday. The two desktops use the Linspire operating system from Lindows Inc.

“We have seen the news release, and it was issued by Questar without Dell input,” said Jeremy Bolen, a spokesman for Dell. “Apparently, it’s a value-added solution to its customers in Europe.”

Bolen did not say whether Dell would ask Questar to cancel the program or whether other VARs could pursue a similar program. Dell has sold desktops in the United States with Linux preinstalled, although the company terminated the program in 2000 in favor of Microsoft-based machines.

Dell also offers the OptiPlex N Series of systems, which ship with a DOS-based, open-source OS.

The systems, which include members of the OptiPlex and Precision workstation lines, do not ship with a Microsoft OS and allow customers to add their own OS. Dell’s Linux partner is Red Hat Inc., based in Raleigh, N.C., whose OS Dell offers as an option on its workstation and server lines.

One of the members of the N Series is the OptiPlex 170Ln, which can be configured to match the specification of the Questar 170L.

Click here to read about Lindows’ decision to bundle its OS with two other Linux distributions.

Lindows chief executive Michael Robertson said in a statement that running Lindows on Dell hardware makes sense. According to Questar, the package will ship with Dell’s Gold support package, which includes on-site service options.

“This is a winning combination for the European community—Dell’s highly recognized brand and service package coupled with Questar’s Linux sales expertise,” Robertson said. “Computer users now have a quality Linux solution—a range of affordable computers with full hardware support and a selection of add-on software for all their application needs.”

A new Linux desktop from Element Computer runs Windows applications. Click here to read more.

All Dell computers sold by Questar will be equipped with the latest version of Linspire and will include the OpenOffice suite complete with word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software and file compatibility with Microsoft Office, Questar said.

In addition, customers who purchase a Dell computer from Questar will receive a yearlong, free membership to the Linspire software warehouse, which houses more than 1,800 software programs.

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