Supported OS/Hardware Ghaost repo
What you are looking to do is provide a supported Ubuntu/Linux setup for a given laptop hardware config.
There is going to be X amount of effort to do this, from Ubuntu and Dell and the result will be a single installable image you can ghost onto the HD of a perticular type of laptop and it will give you a nice clean boot with everything working and tuned for that physical machine. Which you then sell from dell.com.
Why stop at one machine/OS combination? Why not build an install system that copies directly these install images onto the laptop from t'Internet.
Dell/Ubuntu can work to setup a really nice clean install for some laptops with whatever dev tools and config is desired, but people will always have a difference of opinion.
If you built a system where users could also install any Linux on their Dell hardware, configure the OS till it works, and then upload the disk image with the exact hardware spec to the cloud, you could build a repo of working installations for lots of Dell Laptops, even ones no longer being sold. You'd want some tweaks to leave the OS in a form where directly after ghosting it renames the default uid 500/1000 user and sets the password and root password etc. But nothing too complicated. You could add bells and whistles later.
The whole Unity/Gnome debate would be resolved by some bright spark installing Gnome and uploading to the repo. It would be a repo that many machines might not be supported since only exact hardware match would be possible, but Dell would know which machines have a Linux OS available.
Were this to exist, one could browse Dell.com for the machine you want then browse the repo for an OS that suits your liking, and be 100% guaranteed when you pay for the hardware that there is a Linux build that works for your exact machine. Anything that does not work should be visible in the repo before purchasing so no nasty surprises.
Basically this would be a physical version of the VMware VM appliance store.
Ideally if the repo has community uploads you need some comment system and perhaps a dump of dmesg after boot so you can see what works and some kind of checklist of the hardware that is working fo rthe given OS/hardware combo.
There should definatly be supported/official OS/Hardware combos from Ubuntu/Dell but the collective community effort could be a serious bonus, a benefit for everyone. If you were feeling community minded you could open the repo to other hardware.
Clearly the benefits for any company purchasing more than one laptop are apparent. Companies would probably pay good money to have a cloud hosted version of the ghosting necessary to deploy many machines.
You could even sell Windows OS upgrades using the same download system for people that want to buy a specific Laptop but dont want Windows Home crippleware and also dont want to have to buy Ultimate separatly and install it themselves.