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Dell's Ubuntu Ultrabook Now On Sale; Costs $50 More Than Windows Version 403

Posted by timothy
from the all-prices-are-experiments dept.
nk497 writes "Dell's 'Project Sputnik' laptop is now on sale. The XPS 13 Developer Edition comes with Ubuntu 12.04 pre-installed, and costs $1,549 — $50 more than the same model running Windows. The Ubuntu Ultrabook is the result of a skunkworks project to optimise the open-source OS to run on Dell projects, to create better laptops for developers. The idea of the project was to create a laptop for developers, based around 'the idea that developers are the kings of IT and set the agenda for web companies, who in turn, set the agenda for the whole industry,' Dell said." Reader skade88 points out a positive review from Ars Technica.
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Dell's Ubuntu Ultrabook Now On Sale; Costs $50 More Than Windows Version

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  • Surprised? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:22PM (#42131615)

    Did anyone expect better from Dell? They have a history of doing this with Linux laptops.

    • I bought a Dell Laptop running Ubuntu for my sister years ago when they first started selling Linux laptops, it was at least as much as the same one with Windows, and it was loaded with tons of crapware. I booted it up, saw Dell's junk all over the screen and just wiped it clean and installed Ubuntu fresh.

      • by gfxguy (98788)
        Exactly... and why give up a "free" version of Windows? Even if you don't use it or dual boot or anything, you've got it if/when you want to sell it.
    • No Microsoft Funds (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ngarrang (1023425) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:55PM (#42132123) Journal

      Microsoft is essentially paying a large builder like Dell to put Windows on the systems. Linux, on the other hand, has no one paying Dell, so that $50 premium probably represents the loss those marketing dollars.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Well, MS and everybody else. All that bloatware that comes on the machine is paid for by Cyberlink, Symantec, McAffee, and other respective software makers. They pay because a certain percentage of the people upgrade to full fledged products. With Linux, these companies tend not to make software, or the software isn't needed, because Linux includes just about everything by default. Maybe it has something to do with licensing. With Linux, if you want to play DVDs, then you legally have to pay for the decod
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:08PM (#42132301) Homepage

        Not true, MS charges Dell for Windows, although they pay a lot less than low volume OEMs and consumers. However Dell load the system up with crapware that pays them to be there.

        Crapware is big business.

  • Boatware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:22PM (#42131617)

    Thats because all the pre-loaded bloatware on win machines practically pays for the MS license.

    • Re:Boatware (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mschiller (764721) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:27PM (#42131669)

      Practically? This clearly demonstrates that it pays for the windows license and is also a revenue stream. Either that or Dell is sticking it to linux users just to get a few more bucks... Probably a windows machine that they just pay some high school student to install linux onto....

      Who wants to take a bet there is a windows 7 key on the bottom of the laptop?

      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:41PM (#42131933)

        Practically? This clearly demonstrates that it pays for the windows license and is also a revenue stream.

        Or, it demonstrates that there isn't a lot of competition in the market for manufacturer-optimized linux-installed laptops, and that Dell is using the lack of competition in that market to extract rents. The idea that prices can be expected to closely mirror manufacturer costs is correct so far as the expected long-term result in a competitive market where no player is pricing based on influencing some other market, but its not necessarily true in the short run, or when there is little competition for a specific class of good, or where there are market participants that are using one product to draw people into another market.

        • Linux-based laptops might get more support phone calls from guys who were expecting Windows, or customers who wanted to try something new but then learned that Microsoft Office does not run on their new Linux computer. Slashdot guys love to mock uneducated users, but you have to give Dell consideration that these uneducated buyers of a Linux-based laptop might cost them more money to keep happy (or less angry).

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          Practically? This clearly demonstrates that it pays for the windows license and is also a revenue stream.

          Or, it demonstrates that there isn't a lot of competition in the market for manufacturer-optimized linux-installed laptops, and that Dell is using the lack of competition in that market to extract rents. The idea that prices can be expected to closely mirror manufacturer costs is correct so far as the expected long-term result in a competitive market where no player is pricing based on influencin

      • I'd say some of it will be down to driver / software development that they can get for free on Windows.
      • Serious question / theory – how much work does it take to tune Ubuntu to run on a laptop? I am thinking specifically of power consumption.

        Assume 1. that it takes the same amount of time and dollars to tune a OS to run on a specific laptop and 2. That we are going to sell a lot more Win8 and Ubuntu.

        With development dollars speared across fewer computers this would increase Dell’s price of offering free computers. Then factor in bloatware (sigh) and shorter production runs (Had drive images, I wou

    • Re:Boatware (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lilo_booter (649045) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:27PM (#42131687)
      Indeed. I don't see the problem anyway - just because it's based on free software does not mean it's free to produce a good product. I'm in the market for a new laptop and may even consider this one - but if it too comes with bloatware/shovelware, I'll probably avoid it...
      • Re:Boatware (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zemran (3101) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:36PM (#42131837) Homepage Journal

        Why not just buy the cheaper, Windows version, reject the EULA and demand a refund, then install Linux yourself?

        • by Splat (9175)

          Does this still actually work in 2012?

        • Re:Boatware (Score:4, Interesting)

          by interval1066 (668936) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:07PM (#42132287) Homepage Journal
          Last couple of laptops I've purchased didn't seem to give me the option to opt out of the license, seemed like they just came on and wanted me to set up my user space info. SO- in one case I just wiped the drive and installed linux, I assume I paid the ransom. In another case I went ahead and used the pre-installed windows os (Xp at that time I think) for a bit until I got so annoyed I had to install Linux. In either case I wasn't presented with a EULA. In those cases how do you get your money back, assuming you paid the ransom for an unwanted windows installation? Is use of the os, even if under 30 days, implicate acceptance of the EULA and license?
        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Have you read the license agreements for all the Dell specific drivers? I haven't, but in theory Dell could be dicks and make the license agreement forbid doing what you suggest.

    • by andydread (758754)
      DING DING DING we have a winner!
    • by Dupple (1016592) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:36PM (#42131853)

      Boatware - Dell have been at sea for ages and their profits are sinking

    • Don't forget they probably had to hire a new group of technicians to provide support. The cost of Windows support is spread out across their entire product line.
    • More than pays for. In fact, the bloatware not only completely pays for the MS license, it offsets the cost of the hardware. They're paying you to have a laptop with all that garbage on it.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:26PM (#42131657) Homepage

    'the idea that developers are the kings of IT and set the agenda for web companies, who in turn, set the agenda for the whole industry,'

    So what they meant to say was: Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers! [youtube.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:27PM (#42131679)

    Are you frickin' kidding me? If I'm going to spend nearly 2 grand after taxes on a laptop, then I expect something better than what I can expect to get off the shelf at walmart for $400.

    • Agreed. My ~ $1200 13" Macbook Air has a resolution of 1440x900 (16:10) . I would expect at least the same from any "high end" 13" ultrabook. Otherwise, I'm very interested. I prefer Linux and would pay to have hardware that is WELL supported. The Air is nice, but it has quirks with Linux.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:30PM (#42131721) Homepage

    I can totally see Microsoft threatening Dell's volume license if they sell the Ubuntu version for less than Windows. Maybe not in any way that would be outwardly anti-competitive, just the old mafia strategy of telling Dell you would hate it if something bad happened to their volume license.

    Yes, sir, that would be a real shame.

  • If developers' technological preferences really set the agenda for the whole computer industry, a lot of things would look different.

  • Hmm. $50 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:32PM (#42131765) Journal

    So, if I buy the Linux version, I'm paying $50 to skip:
    * Download an ISO (and wait).
    * Convert it to a bootable USB image.
    * Find a spare USB stick and shove the image on.
    * Open the installer, click a bunch of stuff and wait for the install.

    It's not hard. Typically takes maybe 0.5 to 2 hours depending mostly on the speed of your internet connection and whether you can find a spare USB stick.

    Still, you can pay $50 to avoid an hour's work. Seems reasonable.

    Especially to the crows of "time is money" whiners who claim that they only don't use Linux because of the time taken to set it up.

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Except that you'd still do the above steps because no IT guy worth his salt uses an OS that came with the box (unless it's MacOS; there's no difference between pre-installed and self-installed there)
    • by dbc (135354)

      Actually, I suspect the $50 goes to pay for peripheral hardware with open source drivers. The reason so many laptops are so cheap is because much of the functionality is in closed-source driver software. Hardware that doesn't depend on a bunch of proprietary kernel code often costs a little more. Easily verified by a trip to your local computer parts emporium -- compare prices on hardware with good open source drivers versus "windows only" hardware.

      So $50 for avoiding the time spend researching what hard

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:57PM (#42132159)

      So, if I buy the Linux version, I'm paying $50 to skip:

      No.

      You are not paying to skip anything.

      From the sound of it, you are paying for a slightly customized Linux build with a lot of really well thought out features, like work "profiles" that load software tailored to certain kinds of work - the example given was Ruby developers.

      Between Dell making sure the drivers work well with all of the hardware involved, and doing custom improvements over Linux tailored to developers you are not paying to skip anything - you are paying just $50 more to make sure you have a really good developer laptop.

      This is the first non Mac laptop I've been interested in for years. This is a really, really smart move on the part of Dell and I can't help but think we'll see more things like it with PC makers looking to edge away from Microsoft somewhat now that MS is competing on hardware.

  • by Picardo85 (1408929) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:32PM (#42131769)
    Alright, so they've put Ubuntu, a free OS with free applications on their computer instead of Windows. So why is it more expensive then you ask?

    Well the simple explanation would actually be because it doesn't have Windows. With Windows you get the so called bloatware or trialware which is included with the installation at in almost 100% of the cases.

    The software in question is there as marketing from the companies who've created that software and they pay DELL and other OEMs for the opportunity to have it installed on their machines. Hence if the operating system doesn't support their products and they can't be installed it means that they won't buy this "ad space" and that in turn leads to DELL losing out on money.

    That is the simple answer to why OSS laptops are more expensive than Windows laptops
  • by sootman (158191) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:37PM (#42131855) Homepage Journal

    13", 1.8 GHz i5 (up to 2.8 GHz), 8 GB, 256 GB, US$1599.

    Not trolling, asking seriously: how much difference is there between an i5 and an i7? A 2 GHz i7 Air (up to 3.2 GHz -- a little higher than this XPS) is another $100.

    Also, from the Ars article: "All of the additions Dell is bringing to Ubuntu 12.04 are available for free (as in beer)." So could you just buy the Windows version and configure it yourself to save $50?

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      That was exactly the thought I had. People like to complain that Apple hardware is expensive, but when other companies supply similar hardware in a similar form factor it always ends up costing around the same amount. If was in the market for those systems I'd be buying the Air, unless there was some other compelling reason aside from just hating on Apple.

    • by am 2k (217885)

      So could you just buy the Windows version and configure it yourself to save $50?

      You wouldn't get any customer support for that configuration, which is where I guess the extra $50 go to.

  • by Andtalath (1074376) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:45PM (#42131983)

    Supporting Linux is not free.

    Neither is windows of course, but the point is, they don't just preload it, they test it and they have to be able to tell customers exactly how things work and so forth.

    This requires a special treatment.

    Buying a computer without any operating system should be cheaper, buying a computer with an internally developed system should be more expensive.

    Nope, don't see the problem here.

  • Take a look at this System 76 laptop:
    https://www.system76.com/laptops/model/lemu4 [system76.com]

    With comparable specs it comes to $1008, upgraded from base model:
    3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3630QM Processor ( 2.40GHz 6MB L3 Cache - 4 Cores plus Hyperthreading )
    8 GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz - 2 X 4GB
    256 GB Crucial M4 Series SATA III 6 Gb/s Solid State Disk Drive

    As for differences:
    Dell is 13.3 in, System76 is 14 in
    System 76 is 2.5 pounds heavier (4.5 pounds total)

    Am I missing something else?

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:01PM (#42132209) Homepage

    How many times have we heard about Linux non-server products from major vendors that never showed up in retail channels? Dell. HP, and ASUS have each done that more than once.

    "Ultrabooks" are just overpriced "netbooks". I rather liked the EeePC line, which is now dead. I have three of their netbooks. Remember the Eee PC X101, for under $200? The industry has stamped out low-end netbooks to boost profit margins.

  • Wait wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:09PM (#42132319)

    Everyone calm down. It's only $50. Imagine for a second if it were $50 cheaper than the Windows version... All of Dells usual idiot customers would show up, find the computer, do a search for the model... see this linux thing... "Save $50?!?! Hell yea!" and order it... Once it arrives and they boot it up and try to install their casino poker game... they call up Dell support... "What do you mean I can't install this?!?!"

    Dell NEEDS to put a barrier between the average customer and a product that could cause them a lot of support costs. They need to do their very best to make sure that only people who know what they are buying get this laptop. Money is the easiest way to do that. If you don't want to pay the $50, just order the windows version and wipe it when it arrives. It's not that hard.

  • The only issue I have with it is the screen resolution. Either it needs to be cheaper or have a better screen. PC makers are getting better at copying Apple but screen sizes have stagnated way too long especially now that they're charging more for ultrabooks.
  • by Stewie241 (1035724) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:25PM (#42132547)

    If you're spending $1,499 on a laptop, another $50 isn't going to be a make it or break it thing. There could be many reasons for extra price. The cost per unit to get everything polished for Ubuntu is probably what increases the price.

    If Dell can sell a polished Ultrabook experience that runs Ubuntu and they can market and demonstrate value over using Windows then this will sell. You can't sell an operating system using cost as a criteria on a $1500 laptop. The people buying it just don't care about the $50. Nor would they be swayed if the Linux version was $50 less.

  • by crankyspice (63953) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:55PM (#42133007)

    The idea of the project was to create a laptop for developers, based around 'the idea that developers are the kings of IT and set the agenda for web companies, who in turn, set the agenda for the whole industry

    And those developers started moving to Apple laptops en masse (as a capable UNIX system that also runs Photoshop and Omnigraffle and ...) a decade ago...

    http://apple.slashdot.org/story/02/03/11/1542218/how-mac-os-x-is-changing-the-mac-community [slashdot.org]

    http://developers.slashdot.org/story/08/11/17/1920206/why-developers-are-switching-to-macs [slashdot.org]

  • by kilgortrout (674919) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:56PM (#42133021)
    On identical hardware, Asus sells Ubuntu laptops for $38 less than the Windows 8 laptops: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2012095/two-new-asus-laptops-offer-an-ubuntu-linux-option.html [pcworld.com] So why can't Dell? I think the obvious answer is that Asus is not nearly as beholden to Microsoft as Dell.
  • The laptop was mis-priced due to a bug in Dell's system, one of the engineers on the project tells me. It's now $1449 , as you can see at http://www.dell.com/us/soho/p/xps-13-linux/pd [dell.com] .

    Can the title here please be fixed?

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