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Pre-Installed Linux Tops Dell Customer Requests 509

Posted by kdawson
from the please-sir-may-I-have-a-penguin dept.
dhart writes "Within only a few days of Dell opening a new customer feedback website, they discovered that the feature most requested (by an almost 2-to-1 margin!) is an option on all new Dell PCs: pre-installed Linux. (And the number 3 request is pre-installed Open Office.) I believe they'll have a harder time now with the tired old mantra 'There's no customer demand for Linux.'"
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Pre-Installed Linux Tops Dell Customer Requests

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  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday February 19, 2007 @07:16PM (#18074448)

    I believe they'll have a harder time now with the tired old mantra 'There's no customer demand for Linux.'"


    It's not so much that there isn't customer demand for LINUX, it's that there isn't a whole lot of customer demand for individual Linux flavors A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc. It's too much of a PITA to worry about qualifying all that different hardware with all the different distros and then worrying about dealing with Red Hat, Novell and all the different suppliers of what's basically a free OS.

    Now, if they had a service like "I'll send you the Linux distro I want, please preinstall it on the next 500 computers you ship me," that could be big.

  • Requests != demand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Monday February 19, 2007 @07:19PM (#18074504) Homepage
    I believe they'll have a harder time now with the tired old mantra 'There's no customer demand for Linux.'"

    Assuming, of course, that this wasn't a campaign launched by F/OSS zealots. For some reason, vocal minorities are often confused with silent majorities. I'll put more faith in this alleged consumer demand when Linux boxes start outselling all other systems by a 2-to-1 margin. In fact, I'd be amazed if they even sold at a 1:2 margin. It would be a pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless.
  • by zx-15 (926808) on Monday February 19, 2007 @07:32PM (#18074672)
    I doubt that number of linux distros would make much difference. Any popular distro is based on the same kernel, and the only real problem is to get all the hardware working, especially wireless card. Then Dell would have master image for distro A B C D.... and just select the one customer requested, just like the choice between windows 2000 and winxp some time ago. Technically it's not a big of a deal, plus there doesn't have to be numerous distros just the most popular ones ubuntu, fedora, suse that's three. And the people who'd like to install other distros e.g. Debian would have a lot less hassle because of the availability of the drivers. Dell could also sell Ubuntu with 3 or so month of included support from Canonical.

    Also dell doesn't have to provide tech support for linux, just the same it doesn't provide it for windows, and I suppose there will be the usual linux-related community to which would be possible to offload some tech support.

    So the question weather preload linux in not technical, but purely political.
  • by Chapter80 (926879) on Monday February 19, 2007 @07:56PM (#18075014)
    Hmm... I've ordered quantities of Dell computers, and supplied the disk image. Never 500. More like 350 (in groups of 50 at a time), and their integration center pre-loads the image that we supplied.

    It happened to be a Windows image, but my impression is that they would have installed any image that we requested, including Linux.

  • Shill? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday February 19, 2007 @08:04PM (#18075116)
    So 100 motivated geeks spammed their website and made it look as if there's huge customer demand. Duh. That's like those CNN or MoveOn.org polls - only the motivated even go there.

    A better metric would be to have an OS choice list on their config page, with a "sorry we don't support Linux option" displayed once people click it.
  • by ryguy (59982) on Monday February 19, 2007 @08:16PM (#18075266)
    I think that supporting somthing like Ubuntu would not be a good business decision for Dell. If they truly wanted to offer pre-installed linux, they should support the OS. In order to support the OS they should probably pick only one. Their best bet is to partner with a company like Redhat or Novell so that they can support everything from the basic linux desktop all the way up to a multi-server clustered system on the same platform. (or similar platform anyway) Of course there would be a cost involved if they did this.

    I would be something that more companies would be likely to implement on a workstation and server environment if they can get direct support for the OS from the hardware company.
  • Winds of Change. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by twitter (104583) on Monday February 19, 2007 @08:19PM (#18075286) Homepage Journal

    ... expect Dell to be the last major OEM not shipping Linux.

    You think? I'm not sure anymore. Just a few weeks ago Michael Dell stood up with Vint Cerf and admitted 1 in 4 M$ computers is part of a botnet. Now his company is publicizing customer demand for Linux. If he was interested in toeing the M$ party line, he would have suppressed the results. The odds are Dell is moving away from being a M$ vassal.

    2007 is the year of Linux. Vista sucks, is not selling and the revolt is on. It's about time!

  • by westlake (615356) on Monday February 19, 2007 @08:20PM (#18075308)
    I'll put more faith in this alleged consumer demand when Linux boxes start outselling all other systems by a 2-to-1 margin. In fact, I'd be amazed if they even sold at a 1:2 margin.

    Walmart.com tried to make a go of every OEM Linux distro known to man.

    January 31st came and went with one lone Xandros box remaining ---buried deep---and thirty Vista systems ready for sale.

  • Re:curious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Monday February 19, 2007 @08:23PM (#18075330) Homepage
    I found an interesting Dell/Linux bit of hype. Dell pushed their new $400 Dimension e521 as a good Linux machine last fall, but it turned out that it wouldn't actually run Linux, due to BIOS bugs on Dell's system. I expected the community to report the bug, and move onto the next machine... wrong. There were at least hundreds of angry linux users out there making a stink... and then the unthinkable happened... Dell listened to the Linux community feedback and FIXED their BIOS! I bought one as soon as I read that. It makes a great Linux box, at least if you run Ubuntu Feisty :-)
  • Great Story: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by encoderer (1060616) on Monday February 19, 2007 @08:48PM (#18075582)
    On a late night public radio call-in show (put out by American Public Media), they had a story about the overseas call centers. It was a great story. They played clips of the training classes where they teach these indians to lie about what they did on the 4th of july or what they ate for Thanksgiving. It was sickening.

    But then they interview this "industry representitive" who basically said what we all have been: The American people are not satisfied with the level of service they get from Indian call centers, and that many companies are closing them.

    I momentarily though "wow, thank god, that's a trend that can't be over too soon."

    Then he pulls out the punchline: Many of the closed Indian operations are being moved to the Phillipines, because people have less of a negative impression when the phillipino accent is played back to them.

    I swear to god it's like the RIAA is running the call center industry.

    I was SCREAMING at the radio that the only reason Filipino accents don't score as badly as Indian accents are that Americans haven't called tech support yet and had to deal with under-trained Filipinos nearly as much as they've had to deal with under-trained Indians.

    So yes, that's their bright idea. So if Dell does accept the "Close your indian call centers" suggest, don't expect much of an improvement. Maybe we should be a little more specific and suggest that they move their call centers only to NATO countries, and preferably the US, Canada or the UK.
  • by jlarocco (851450) on Monday February 19, 2007 @08:54PM (#18075648) Homepage

    Maybe because of hardware that isn't compatible with Linux?

    I'm not seeing your point. Incompatible hardware is only a problem if you have an existing computer, and you want to run a different OS on it. If you're building the machine, as Dell is, it doesn't make any sense to purposely choose hardware that's incompatible with the OS most people (buying these machines) want to use.

    It could be an honest mistake, but they're probably just being asshats.

  • by iamstretchypanda (939837) on Monday February 19, 2007 @09:01PM (#18075718) Homepage
    Also dell doesn't have to provide tech support for linux, just the same it doesn't provide it for windows, and I suppose there will be the usual linux-related community to which would be possible to offload some tech support.

    The problem is they would need to set up a help-desk and train their staff. The help-desk consists of a large series of hierarchal questions and integrate them into their existing interface.

    Staff training would be huge since most of their existing staff has been using windows their whole lives. The linux session would have to be more hands on, actually teaching the staff how to use it from the ground up (most have never even seen linux run). Also there is the problem of multiple distributions and training for each.

    I'm not sure if the cost would be substantial or not, but they would also want to write some software to brand their computers they installed linux on (you know, the typical dell, hp, gateway, etc startup programs).
  • Re:Great Story: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Monday February 19, 2007 @09:11PM (#18075806)
    Do you know any Filipinos, and more importantly, do you speak English with them on a regular basis?

    I know a teenage Filipina girl. Although she does have a noticable accent, her English is impeccable and easily understood. She's not a special case, this is normal for Filipinos. The Phillippines exhibit a situation of diglossia in which English is used for educational and government as well as other formal purposes. What this means is that everything from government proceedings to television reporting is conducted in the English language. In addition, English is the only language spoken in many schools, and textbooks are exclusively written in the language. According to the Filipina I know, any use of her local language in her school incurs a fine.

    Thus, Filipinos, especially educated ones, can be expected to have a good command of English. This, coupled with the fact that their accent is quite easily understandable, would make them, on average and from a linguistic point of view, much better technical support representatives than their Indian counterparts.
  • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Monday February 19, 2007 @09:38PM (#18076062) Homepage Journal

    I won't tell you how to mod the parent, but I can throw my 2 cent's worth of experience in.

    It is 100% true that English isn't a second language in the Philippines, it's a primary language. I work in a 24x7 datacenter, and a year or so ago, a new support center was opened in the Philippines to handle our night shift. I thought they were going to let a bunch of people go, but it turned out, they were expanding our operations, not replacing them. (Thank goodness!)

    I was very skeptical that this would work. I had many of the same fears. Would we be able to understand their accent? Would they be undertrained an incompetent? Would there be any culture clashes?

    The answers, to my surprise, were: They have no discernible accent—none. They're very smart and easily keep up with our local folks, and have often gone far above and beyond the call of duty to help us out. And yes, they are very familiar with our culture and ways of doing things. In fact, a nice bonus about the Filipino support center is that a lot of our night shift calls were coming from Asia-Pacific countries (since, duh, they were open at that time of night), and a lot of those clients feel much more comfortable dealing with our Filipino support center than our American night shift folks.

    By now, you're probably thinking, "Right, you're just a management goober," but I assure you, I'm not. In fact, I was certain that I was going to lose my job due to Filipino outsourcing, but that never happened, since we weren't really outsourcing. And after working with them for a while at our shift turnover and seeing the quality of the work they did for us, I can honestly say that hiring our Filipino friends has turned out to be one of the few times management actually did something right at my company, and it's been a win-win situation for everyone.

    I'm not saying that every Filipino person is smart and capable and a perfect joy to work with. Just like dealing with all people, your mileage may vary. But I can say that anyone who thinks that good customer service can't be provided by support centers in the Philippines is either stupid or doesn't know enough Filipino people, if any at all.

  • Re:curious (Score:2, Interesting)

    by slapys (993739) on Monday February 19, 2007 @10:10PM (#18076348)
    I think that many on Slashdot are stuck on the idea that people must be programmers or hardcore geeks to want to install Linux on the desktop. A friend of mine has shown me that this isn't true. He is what many would describe as a "Windows power user" in the XP days. He knows registry tweaks, how to run msconfig to stop certain applications from starting (as well as other DOS commands), get all the software he needs from BitTorrent (DC++ before that was around), and generally run his own machine and get the maximum horsepower out of it. I would describe his desktop hardware as not top of the line...he's running a 1.6 GHz processor I believe (which was pretty fast back in the day), 512MB of RAM, and an nVidia video card that is maybe 4 years old. By the way, this guy is a Marketing major, and does not program or study engineering of any kind.

    About a week after Vista was released, he hit me up on AIM and asked me how to install Linux on his desktop. I was surprised to say the least, because even though he has many Linux-using friends, including myself and my roommate (disclaimer: we are both Computer Science majors), he had always laughed me off when I had told him to try Linux before. I pointed him to the Ubuntu website, and now, two days later, he says that he is happy with Ubuntu and will probably stick with it indefinitely.

    Given that I struggled with various Linux distributions for maybe 8 months before I found user-friendly Ubuntu, I was somewhat miffed that he had made the switch entirely within two days. He performed the install on his Dell laptop, and he reported that the wireless worked immediately, as well as suspend/hibernate support. After the second day, when I gave him some instructions on how to install software with apt, he had his laptop hotkeys (volume up/down, mute, web browser etc.) working, all the multimedia players that he would need running, and pretty much everything else he would need.

    I asked him the primary reason that he had decided to switch; he replied that Vista had left a bad impression on him. That was it. He is considering upgrading his desktop soon, and he told me that he will definitely ensure that he buys one with Linux pre-installed and configured. As more and more people use Vista, a fraction of them will find it not to their taste and make the switch. Therefore, the demand for these OEM Linux desktops is bound to increase.
  • Re:Great Story: (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 19, 2007 @10:29PM (#18076508)
    Hey I'm a Filipino. We do have call-centers here, I don't work for one (I'm a programmer) but why oh why American companies choose other countries for their tech support and not some American state. I don't know the answer, but I'm glad that some of my fellow countrymen are given descent jobs. Maybe you should try starting a business and from there evaluate if some of those jobs will be outsourced. My country is a victim too of globalization, just look at China, our "raw" materials just doesn't compete with them, and many of our local farmers are starving to earn a living. A company primary focus is to earn money, maybe boycott those companies that outsource tech support, just don't condemn the Indians or the Filipinos that your job is lost, in the first place it wasn't our decision.
  • Re:Great Story: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by encoderer (1060616) on Monday February 19, 2007 @10:30PM (#18076522)
    But they're STILL going to give them American names. And they're STILL going to train them to lie about "setting of fireworks" and "eating turkey on thanksgiving" and they're STILL not going to understand all slang and they're STILL not going to understand common pop-culture references. Training can help, but things still will be far inferior to American based tech support. What's more, the companies KNOW THIS. That's why if you call American Express for your Green Card (as in Green American Express Card), you get their indian line. But if you call for your Black Card, you get Americans. Or if you call Dells premium tech support, you get American, etc.

    You're right-- I don't know any NATIVE Filipinos. I do know some AMERICAN Filipinos, but that's different. (Yes, I understand that the Phillipines are an American protectorate so they could all be considered somewhat 'american' but you know what I meant)

    My post wasn't meant to insult Filipinos or any other nationality. I hope you don't take it as such.
  • by McFadden (809368) on Monday February 19, 2007 @11:07PM (#18076828)

    I'm not seeing your point. Incompatible hardware is only a problem if you have an existing computer, and you want to run a different OS on it. If you're building the machine, as Dell is, it doesn't make any sense to purposely choose hardware that's incompatible with the OS most people (buying these machines) want to use.
    So you're saying that Dell should only be allowed to ship their servers with 100% Linux compatible parts? Presumably you're one of the people who also complained when they were a 100% Microsoft lock-in.

    You said it yourself in the comment: "the OS most people want to use" (emphasis mine). I note you specifically didn't say all people. Which means there there are people out there who may not want their hardware requirements dictated by an OS they're not even going to install.
  • by jlarocco (851450) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:47AM (#18077730) Homepage

    So you're saying that Dell should only be allowed to ship their servers with 100% Linux compatible parts? Presumably you're one of the people who also complained when they were a 100% Microsoft lock-in.

    I didn't say that at all, and I think most people got my point. If they're selling a machine to be used with Linux, then logic would imply that those machines should actually work with Linux.

    You said it yourself in the comment: "the OS most people want to use" (emphasis mine). I note you specifically didn't say all people. Which means there there are people out there who may not want their hardware requirements dictated by an OS they're not even going to install.

    Slow down, and read what I said. The whole thing, with the parentheses. I explicitly pointed out that the people buying *these* machines, specifically the "No OS, Linux" machines, want the machines to run Linux. I wasn't refering to Dell machines in general. If Dell is selling the machine without an OS, specifically so that people can put Linux on it, then yes, I think Dell should make at least a little effort to make sure it comes with Linux compatible hardware. Otherwise, what's the point?

  • Re:Hardware support (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AusIV (950840) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @01:16AM (#18077924)
    The hardware has been better than any other system I've put Linux on. I had to do a little bit of work to get resolution configured properly, and I had to activate my swap partition (though they claim this has been corrected for new systems). I got the cheapest laptop they had and I've not been disappointed. Hibernate and suspend work great, beryl works wonderfully and doesn't conflict with hibernate or suspend at all (it does on one of my other systems).

    As far as support they've been awesome. There was a small issue and subsequent delay with regard to my order, so they bumped up my shipping a notch for free. I had a little trouble with resolution and my swap partition. I posted these to their forum on ubuntuforums.org, but I had solved the problems before a solution was posted (the solution was posted the following morning, I posted my question in the late afternoon), and I believe they are working on a widespread fix for both of these issues at the moment.

    Right now, I'm doing some troubleshooting because my hotkeys (sound control, touchpad toggle, etc.) cease functioning after suspend and don't come back until I reboot. Based on past experience, I'd guess there will be an official fix for this by Wednesday afternoon.

    The system didn't work straight out of the box quite as well as I had hoped, but it's the best experience I've had with a Linux machine so far. You'll know you're getting Linux compatible hardware, and the support staff is committed to getting things working for you. I would certainly recommend it.

    And now I get modded off-topic. Oh well.

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @03:07AM (#18078636) Homepage

    I've been trying to buy a Linux laptop. Unsuccessfully. I'm looking for a low-end system, just enough to give presentations and access systems remotely. My main systems are desktops. I don't need to be able to play movies. I don't need dual boot. I don't need much compute power or a big screen. I do need WiFi capability to public access points, and VGA output to projectors. One would think this would be easy.

    So first I try Fry's, which used to have Linux machines on sale. No more. Everything is Windows or Mac. I try Best Buy. No joy, even after a talk with the Geek Squad guy.

    Online, we have LinuxCertified [linuxcertified.com]. No obvious business address on the web site, always a bad sign, and a criminal offense in California. Low-grade domain-only SSL cert. Phone number not answered during working hours. Not looking good.

    There's an article about a $498 Linux laptop from WalMart, but it's been discontinued. WalMart no longer seems to have any Linux laptops.

    There's EmperorLinux [emperorlinux.com], but their laptops start at $1145 and go up to $6000. Their $1145 machine is a Dell 520, which Dell sells for $599. $400 extra for Linux?

    So now we're down to the blogger/enthusiast sites. One guy [mcelrath.org] has a list of Linux laptop vendors. Going down the list, it doesn't look good. The HP link is dead. The Dell link leads to Dell's French site, and even that's selling only Windows laptops.

    But some of the links aren't dead. MGE PC Online [mgepconline.com] will actually sell a Linux laptop. It's a bit overpriced; $805 for the cheapest Celeron machine. But you get Red Hat Fedora preloaded. ShopRCubed [shoprcubed.com] has Linux laptops that start at $840. Their advertising is deceptive; they advertise a model with "Intel Dual Core Technology" for $799, but in fact that's the price with an Intel Celeron. Adding WiFi and a Ubuntu install brings you up to $840.

    There's American Computer [accpc.com], or ACC PC, or CompAmerica, or whatever. Very low base prices, but they don't install Linux; they just sell you a bare machine and claim "Also Certified to run the Linux Operating System."

    Let's try Google's "Froogle" system. There we get some Linux laptops. There's a discontinued Acer model that's out of stock. There's a Pentium II laptop on eBay for $80. ("Boots Linux; some keys don't work") Nothing useful there.

    Face it. There are no major commercial vendors of Linux laptops any more. There are a few resellers buying machines, adding Linux, and increasing the price. That's it.

  • Re:Not conclusive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zphbeeblbrox (816582) <zaphar@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @11:54AM (#18082204) Homepage

    And in any case, preinstalling Linux for geeks is a waste of time - they're the vocal minority who want preinstalled Linux because it increases mindshare but will tire of having a 6 month old distro on their laptop when they buy it, and install the latest development release anyway.


    While it may be a reasonable assumption, you are still making an assumption. I am one of those vocal geeks linux geeks. Here is why I want preinstalled linux. I can buy boxes for my 5 kids and wife. Those don't have to be cutting edge. As for installing the 6 month distro release I usually upgrade. Which is fairly easy. And for hardware that Dell has already determined to be compatible is likely to be even easier. So I'm not going to be reinstalling. Which is pretty much the same as installing the latest Windows service pack or security update. The primary point is that there is a market that is larger than Dell may have previously thought and that Dell could make money at it if they wanted to.

    Would people be happy if they had Dapper Xubuntu installed just because it has a 10-year support cycle and Dell think that's better for customers, or do Dell take the risk and put Feisty on it?

    RedHat or SuSE? Ubuntu or Debian? Think of problems like Fedora where preinstalling it on a system is against their charter (and preinstalling it and calling it Fedora even worse. The trademark licensing is atrocious. Would they bother with a Fedora-based Dell Linux?)

    And the Licensing for windows is better? No matter what OS they choose Licensing is a headache. At least with Linux they have options. Ubuntu and Debian might be a better choice than Redhat or Suse for trademark licensing. And if they really wanted to they could fork debian and like ubuntu did and have Dell Linux with community support and input into what hardware gets supported. The options give them something they don't have with MS. The idea here is that they could should they desire make money in this sector. No one is saying the have to just that they could.
  • by AeroIllini (726211) <aeroilliniNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @01:47PM (#18083844)

    If Dell is selling the machine without an OS, specifically so that people can put Linux on it, then yes, I think Dell should make at least a little effort to make sure it comes with Linux compatible hardware. Otherwise, what's the point?

    I think the GP's point was that the demand is for the Linux option to be available on any machine Dell sells, which means that Dell would have to choose all their hardware to be Linux-compatible; kind of a lowest-common-denominator approach.

    However, that being said, Dell is a big enough distributor of computers that they could lean on hardware manufacturers to write drivers for Linux, and thus make all their hardware compatible with Linux. After all, the only thing stopping these manufacturers from writing Linux drivers in the first place is market share: when 98% of the computers sold have Windows, they just develop for Windows. But if Dell started selling Linux machines, and/or offering the option of any OS on their machines, then the hardware vendors would have reason to develop drivers for those OSs; Dell wouldn't carry the hardware otherwise, and that's a mighty big account to lose.

    When you're the 800lb gorilla in the room, you can dictate hardware specs to your vendors. I'm happy to see that Dell is willing to take on Microsoft and stop this Windows lock-in cycle. The end result of more competition can only be good for consumers.

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