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Why Dell Won't Offer Linux On Its PCs 628

derrida sends us to an article in the Guardian by Jack Schofield explaining why he believes Dell won't offer Linux on its PCs. In the end he suggests that those lobbying Dell for such a solution go out and put together a company and offer one themselves. Quoting: "The most obvious [problem] is deciding which version of Linux to offer. There are more than 100 distros, and everybody seems to want a different one — or the same one with a different desktop, or whatever. It costs Dell a small fortune to offer an operating system... so the lack of a standard is a real killer. The less obvious problem is the very high cost of Linux support, especially when selling cheap PCs to naive users who don't RTFM... and wouldn't understand a Linux manual if they tried. And there's so much of it! Saying 'Linux is just a kernel, so that's all we support' isn't going to work, but where in the great sprawling heap of GNU/Linux code do you draw the line?"
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Why Dell Won't Offer Linux On Its PCs

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  • Stop it! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:36PM (#18312254)
    More importantly, isn't anyone else tired of hearing about why or why not? Enough already, no one really cares.
    • by gjuk ( 940514 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:43AM (#18313917)
      It matters because soon as a major PC manufacturer starts shipping machines without the Windows tax, we can finally get some real competition in the OS world (how ironic that if I want to try free Linux, I usually have to buy Windows - which comes with my PC - and I can't get a discount if I don't want Windows).
      Basically - Dell don't offer it because - and I have to be careful here- Dell get a volume discount on the Windows licenses they preinstall. If they start to offer Linux, they'll fall into a lower discount level on Windows and suddenly be uncompetitive in the crucial Windows market.
      My experience (in a slightly different sector) of such deals is that they always coincidentally have break points remarkably close to what happens when the reseller starts dealing with a competitor of the dominant vendor. Of course, MS cannot charge Dell more for Windows just because Dell happens to ship some Linux machines, but it can double the price of Windows if Dell falls below a certain sale volume - which they can vary any time they like.
      The solution? Manufacturers could [be forced to] [by France?] publish the embedded cost of software which ships with each machine so MS shenanigans could be spotted, but I'm sure plenty of fellow readers will point out the impracticality of that. The alternative is whistle blowers...
      • by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @07:09AM (#18314347) Journal

        It matters because soon as a major PC manufacturer starts shipping machines without the Windows tax, we can finally get some real competition in the OS world (how ironic that if I want to try free Linux, I usually have to buy Windows - which comes with my PC - and I can't get a discount if I don't want Windows).

        You're right, because it's absolutely [] impossible [] to acquire [] a PC without Windows [] these days.

        Maybe nobody wants to mass market them because they're *gasp* not in demand! Shame on them for not basing their business decisions on your personal ideology. I mean, really...
        • by The Spoonman ( 634311 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @08:03AM (#18314575) Homepage
          Tsk, tsk, tsk! Don't you know: people who share their religious views almost never want to share yours? Shame on you for pointing out the obvious on slashdot! Geez, just because there's lots of places you can get a PC without Windows doesn't mean we need to be telling people! I mean, if people knew that the linux community was just made up of a whiny bunch of pricks who bitch at every turn about how no one else likes their OS....why, people might just not use it!

        • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @11:16AM (#18316845)
          Let's take your examples. From the Linspire site:
          • Linspire Balance notebook - not available when you click on the link, and a crappy Via 1GHz laptop with a whole 1.5 hours of battery time.
          • LinuxCertified Laptop - if this beast is still available, you get a $1400 P4 notebook from a vendor that hasn't updated the prices on their site since 2004.
          • Sub300 laptop - to call this obsolete would be an understatement. Another Via 1GHz machine, this one for over $800! You could get the crappiest Dell or even an old G4 iBook and out-perform this thing. Yes, it is light - as it should be since it has no optical drive.
          • "UK-based Tiny Computers offers Linspire Desktops" - yeah, until you click on the dead link! I went to their home page and could not find a Linux computer.
          • "The popular Linspire desktop!" - another dead link. However, you can search for Linspire at and get a single match for a $348 Sempron 2.0GHz system. Out of 28 systems, that's it, and it's "online only". Bare system, no monitor.
          • "Powerful Northgate L-series sold at Just $499!" - bad link, and a search on for "Linux" or "Linspire" comes up dry.
          • The IBM link is interesting, until you actually click on these VERY expensive systems to configure them and find out that they are the same price whether or not you order Windows.
          • The Dell link is even more interesting, as the same systems configured with Windows are actually CHEAPER!
          • The HP link, like the IBM link, points to workstations/servers in the rather expensive department. In any case, trying to click on the links to buy them gave me a network timeout.

          This isn't about demand or ideology. This is about shady business practices that, as a practical matter, guarantee that most people won't buy a pre-built PC without paying Microsoft. Do you really think that someone with a Windows2000 install disk from their last PC wouldn't have been perfectly happy to use that on their new PC if the new PC were $100 cheaper? This isn't demand for Windows - hang out in a Best Buy for a while and listen to what gets asked of the computer salesmen - people don't even know that Macs don't come with Windows. My wife can't even tell you when she is on a Windows vs. a Macintosh computer. I just helped a friend set up his Vista notebook, and he doesn't understand that it is not XP (though he does now after buying some incompatible peripherals and software).
      • by TechForensics ( 944258 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @08:13AM (#18314637) Homepage Journal
        There is always a Windows tax, even on Linux PCs. M$ even used to charge PC manufacturers for Windows based on the number of PCs they SHIPPED, because "all of them would be running Windows eventually". Just try and find a Linux PC cheaper than a Windows PC with the same hardware specs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I AM tired of hearing sophomoric arguments from people who aren't in business themselves - including the idiot who wrote this article.

      The variety of Linux distros is utterly irrelevant to anybody, including Dell. If Dell wants to sell Linux, they will deal with one of the top two or three Linux companies and that's it. It's an insignifant issue in all other respects. If there went fifty versions of Windows, does anybody expect Dell would try to support them all? Hardly - they would turn that whole thing bac
  • Bullshit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JoshJ ( 1009085 )
    "Start your own company and do it yourself?" The market is saturated- there's already a large number of major OEM computer manufacturers. Trying to reach that level from scratch isn't going to work. That's like saying "You don't like Coca-Cola or Pepsi? Start your own soda company then." It's wholly impractical and simply dodges the issue.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PinkPanther ( 42194 )
      Dodge the issue? Which one is that, that Dell is out to make money?

      His suggestion of starting a company is simply to highlight that there is A LOT of effort involved and that even a company like Dell likely can't see much business benefit in trying to go down this road. If Dell cannot do it with their cookie-cutter approach to most everything, then a completely different approach is needed and the author is suggesting that the collective figure that part out.

      And by "cannot do it", I mean "cannot come

    • Read the article.

      You aren't competing with the "large number of major OEM computer manufacturers",
      just those few that build to order and install linux. And support linux.

      He's identified an opportunity for linux people to put their $$ where their
      mouth is - invest in creating a company that does *exactly* what they want Dell
      to do.

      Any takers? Anyone?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrjohnson ( 538567 )
      Not to mention... Penguin Computing already does this.

      What people want are a large computer firm to sell name brand computers with Linux, not generic boxen. (I don't know why though -- I bought my last workstation from Penguin and it friggen rocks.)
    • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jinxidoru ( 743428 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @01:12AM (#18312816) Homepage
      Even bigger BS is expecting a big company like Dell to spend a lot of money to go after a ridiculously small market. Is anyone here so deep into their geekdom as to believe that Dell would make a lot of money selling Linux boxes? I think this article makes a lot of sense with its explanation.
    • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

      by magarity ( 164372 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @03:47AM (#18313473)
      "Start your own company and do it yourself?" The market is saturated- there's already a large number of major OEM computer manufacturers.
      But there are no companies that are selling support to a Linux distro on Dells. Here's how it plays out, in familiar slashdot formatting:
      1: Pick several models of Dells
      2: Pick your favorite Linux distro and get make an image tweaked for models in step 1
      3: Sell support contracts for said install image to others whose favorite distro is the same as your
      4: Maybe make a little profit but more likely spend half your time explaining why you picked distro X instead of Y and the other half of the time trying to figure out what when wrong when the users heavily modified and recompiled your carefully tweaked image in bizarre ways without admitting to doing so when they call for support.
  • Good point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:38PM (#18312280)
    Linux isn't really for the faint hearted, and is an absolute nightmare to maintain if the user is used to MS bloatware.
    Many MS users don't know what a driver is or where to find one, what do they do when their new printer doesn't come with linux-compatible drivers?
    He brings up a good point with the difficulties of providing tech support. Maybe Dell should offer computers with blank drives and let the buyer select a distro cd to ship with it, with the explicit instruction that tech support relating to software issues won't be availible.
    • Re:Good point (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dbcad7 ( 771464 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @12:19AM (#18312540)
      Although I agree with your point on printers, your "nightmare to maintain" is based on what ?

      My Ubuntu system tells me when updates and fixes are available, and I just click yes to install them. Everything works on my system, nothing has ever broken. When I run across something I want to try out, I install it with Synaptic.. couldn't be easier. When I decided a year ago that I wanted a new printer I researched the models I was interested in on Google to see what problems there were with Linux (was running Debian at the time). I'm not saying it was a snap to get the printer working, but I figured it out. So yes I'll give you the printer thing, but not "nightmare to maintain".

      • Re:Good point (Score:5, Insightful)

        by danheskett ( 178529 ) <> on Monday March 12, 2007 @12:57AM (#18312738)
        The problem from Dell's point of view is touched by the author.

        If you go configure the cheapest possible PC you can at Dell's website, you can do it damn cheap y just about any measure.

        But they try like heck to upsell you to something, anything, with a decent profit margin.  Two of the biggest profit makers, in no special order are printers and cameras.  At-home photography is a cash cow.  HP isn't anything practically but an *ink* and paper company.   Selling you a $500 PC with a $100 printer and $100 camera is a great sale to Dell because that $200 of add-on's is a whole different margin category than the PC.  Plus it leads to years of sales opportunitis for ink, batteries, paper, etc.

        So, when you say you had to research which printers worked well and which ones did not that should clue you into a big worry.  Actually getting software that is the right mix of features/ease of use for a simple needs user is also a major concern.  Selling a product which limits upsell potential for high-profit products is a really bad business decision.

        I have no problem with Linux whatsoever, but hopefully Dell will think carefully about succumbing to the pressure from a highly selected, highly elite techno-saavy crowd who is probably not representative of the entire set of Dell customers.  Selling Linux pre-loaded needs to be done carefully, with carefully crafted expectations.    Nothing but nothing can damage the long term prospects of Linux than putting it unsuccessfully into the hands of the mass market.  Literally nothing can undo the perception of a product as a cheap "knock off" of something else.  It is the kiss of death for a generation or more to a good brand name.

        Finally, though there isn't what I would call a great track record with MS, oddly enough, there is a certain stability to Windows in terms of release schedule.  Even compared to other commerical OS'es, Windows moves at a glacial development pace.  And when a new release happens it's a gigantic bang complete with lots of hype but also some carefully planning.  Honestly, with Linux, it is entirely possible that a major or even minor release could have very large implications and Dell could be left holding the bag with it's customers.  This could happen with MS, but Dell is a large enough customer that frankly pressure can be applied directly up the chain.   A reasonable ancedote goes back a few years to when I used GNUCash everyday.  It was nice.  I was working off a desktop install that I had compiled mostly from scratch.   It seems like suddenly the GNUCash people recommended not compiling yourself, and all the make scripts fell apart in my environment.  They posted a message on the site about using a binary packages as the new norm, and here are all the ones we support.  I ended up fixing the scripts myself, but that's not the point.  Things are better now and I still use it everyday.  But look at their <a href=" pened_to_my_Profit_and_Loss_report_when_I_upgraded _to_2.0.3F">FAQ</a> page.  Compare to the closest version of that page from MS <a href="">here< /a>.  This is a product that costs, essentially, $19 - $60 bucks, depending on the version.  This type of difference in overall "polish" gets more and more pronounced all the time.  And if it's that bad for Windows v. Linux, imagine how bad it is for OSX vs. Linux.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          So, when you say you had to research which printers worked well and which ones did not that should clue you into a big worry. Actually getting software that is the right mix of features/ease of use for a simple needs user is also a major concern. Selling a product which limits upsell potential for high-profit products is a really bad business decision

          I won't argue that do that would be a bad business decision; but, on the other hand, if Dell does have the demand for it (which there seems to be) then the

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Technician ( 215283 )
      He brings up a good point with the difficulties of providing tech support.

      He ignores the issue that Linux has been much more stable and problem free than Windows. I have been able as a novice to fix a couple items myself on linux such as losing the administrator privilages in Ubuntu. Fixed it with a Hosts file edit. The answer was found on Google. All my hardware works "out of the box" except a couple Windows only items such as the Dell all in one printer and a HP flatbed scanner.

      On the other hand thing
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )
        I love these personal stories that are utterly irrelevant to the story, and yet get modded up.

        Sure, *you* think fixing things in Linux is easy... but you also fixed it by editing the Hosts file. Do you know any average computer users (Mac, Windows, or Linux if there are any average users on Linux) that even know what the Hosts file is or how to edit it? An "easy" fix for this crowd would be, say, "I threw iTunes in the trash and then used Apple Software Updater to download a new copy of iTunes." Anything mo
  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:39PM (#18312286)

    The most obvious [problem] is deciding which version of Linux to offer. There are more than 100 distros, and everybody seems to want a different one -- or the same one with a different desktop, or whatever.

    This has been answered many times. The people who know enough to know that they want a different distro can figure out how to get it on there. Therefore, they can pick a noob-friendly distro (like Fedora or Ubuntu), thereby guaranteeing the existence of drivers for the hardware. The rest of us who want to be all l33t and install Debian, Gentoo or even Linux From Scratch can figure it out ourselves.

    • Which sounds great until the first buggy 3d driver hangs a desktop when under load, Dell realizes that it has to get its suppliers to write reliable Linux drivers every time they change a chip, and then deal with the screaming from the more radical corners of the community that driver X is (binary/closed/doesn't work on Debian). (I had a 3d screensaver hang a Radeon9000 hard just a couple of months back. The card is old, I know, and never all that open, but it's the kind of thing that gives Dell PR headach
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ameoba ( 173803 )
      Honestly, I think the best thing to do would be to not bother installing Linux and simply certifying that all the devices are supported and will boot a standard kernel. Outside of unsophisticated home users and very small businesses, nobody bothers using the original OEM install of the OS anyways.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Prof.Phreak ( 584152 )
      I think distro is irrelevant.

      The whole purpose behind Linux on a Dell would be to ensure that all hardware has an easily available Linux driver.

      They could install their own Dell distro for all I care. I'll buy -that- only 'cause all their hardware would work under Linux, AND, I wouldn't have to pay for Windows.

      I'd imagine most folks who want Linux on a Dell box have the same motives.

      In fact, if they care for support, just offer those configurations without -software- support. Just hardware.
  • FreeBSD (Score:4, Funny)

    by dkh ( 125857 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:43PM (#18312304)
    FreeBSD would solve the problem of distribution sprawl.
  • by TibbonZero ( 571809 ) <> on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:44PM (#18312310) Homepage Journal
    The logic seems to make sense. I'm not sure why they don't just partner with one Distro and just go with it however. If someone really knows the diffence between distros then that person changing them wouldn't be an issue really. Dell doesn't NEED to support all the distros as I think the community already supports them pretty well (although I've had my share of Linux-based headaches too).

    However, while slightly OT... I wouldn't want to be the IT manager at a company that I allowed everyone in a 10,000 person company to decide what distro and software they wanted to run. I mean if someone has a problem with something... supporting (as the acticle says) 100+ different distros, different kernel versions, different package/install systems, different windowing systems... hell even different text editors. It would be HELL for an IT department to support, so i could see how Dell would have a similar issue. Even simple things would become nightmares to support. Even asking the users what version they are using would confuse many.
    • So don't allow it. Or at least make it damn clear that anyone deviating from the corporate standard is responsible for their own support.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I can choose my own distro (Ubuntu, naturally) but all I really want is for Dell (or anyone else) to sell computers with hardware that is supported by Linux. Release the drivers, or at least the specs, and let the Linux community make their distros compatible with your machine. Yes, I'd love it if Dell offered the top 25 distros on Distrowatch installed and supported, but that isn't practical for anyone. But right now I have a Sony desktop with a soundchip that is unsupported by ALSA. All I want is s
  • Settle on one distro (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thre5her ( 223254 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:45PM (#18312314) Homepage

    The most obvious [problem] is deciding which version of Linux to offer. There are more than 100 distros, and everybody seems to want a different one -- or the same one with a different desktop, or whatever. It costs Dell a small fortune to offer an operating system... so the lack of a standard is a real killer.
    This is a non-point; what's the problem with Dell settling on one distribution, outsourcing the support to Novell/RH/etc? The power users will install their own distro anyway, and they can find/finance their own support.
    • by awful ( 227543 )
      Sure, but if you go to the Dell website mentioned in the article you'll see that all the people who've been responding have been nominating every distro under the sun. If Dell settles on one distro, then anyone who doesn't like that distro probably won't be interested.

      Especially if (as the writer says) a non-crapware PC from Dell will actually cost more - because then it would still be cheaper for someone to buy a Windows Dell and then install their favourite Linux distribution.

      Finally - the last point the
    • by omeomi ( 675045 )
      I agree. Just pick a distro, and offer those computers at a reduced rate. That seems possible, since Microsoft isn't getting a cut of the profits...In the end, those who are planning to install something other than Windows will choose it regardless of the distro, and plenty of people will just go with whatever distro it came with...
  • by bunbuntheminilop ( 935594 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:46PM (#18312318)
    It's all about hardware that works. It's great that I could buy a computer with Ubuntu on it, but you know I'm going to format it the second it comes though the door and install what I want. When I install what I want, I WANT it to work, because the kernel has supported that hardware since version 2.6.whatever.
  • Just don't offer software support, or charge for it. They could do this with all their PCs.
  • by femto ( 459605 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:47PM (#18312328) Homepage

    What's wrong with the existing open source [] series from Dell, provided there is a genuine reduction in price for the absence of MS software?

    If Dell is hesitant about offering Linux what the Free Software community forming a third party company and approaching Dell with a proposal that Dell simply contract the entire Linux support operation out to them?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by H3g3m0n ( 642800 )
      I doubt Dell would have much of a price reduction for systems shipped without windows.

      There was that article a while back about people using the EULA clause that required OEMs to refund the money if the user didn't agree to the EULA, the Dell refund was for $53. This would indicate that Dell has a fairly good deal with Microsoft to get Windows at a reduced price (This itself might be a reason for not shipping Linux, as MS could start charging full price again as a retaliation).

      The other thing is that Dell c
  • Support (Score:4, Informative)

    by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:48PM (#18312330) Homepage Journal
    Dell couldn't manage to support GNU/Linux, but lets not forget that Dell doesn't really support Windows either. Sure it's impossible to explain to your average user that the Internet and their web browser are different things. This doesn't change if the browser is IE or Firefox or Konqueror. However, as a "geek" I regularly need to provide tech support to friends and family. I have a much easier time doing this once I have switched them over to Ubuntu from Windows. It's simply more user friendly and secure. If you are looking for a new PC, I would highly recommend system76 [], not any big OEM that functions as a division of Microsoft.
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:48PM (#18312334) Journal
    This is IMO, a problem that is custom made for the open source community. No, I'm not suggesting that people put together a hardware company to build their own. I'm suggesting that Dell give away a few of each PC they want to offer Linux on to any Linux distro group that wants to be supported.

    In the end, they won't have to do the image build nor support it. Just let the Linux distro folks support it.

    Example: The Ubuntu group could build the image for Dell to put on each line of machines they want to sell with Ubuntu Linux. The Ubuntu group provides software/configuration support, and Dell supports the hardware. Once the Ubuntu group provides a pre-built image, Dell doesn't have much left to do but burn it on the machine and ship.

    Sure, there is a bit more to it, but that's it in a nutshell, and it is about open source support. Dell gets to sell the hardware, the OSS community supports the software, and everyone is happy. Current support for Linux comes from the OSS community anyway. Dell is just trying to limit their exposure when they shouldn't even try to expose themselves to support issues. Simply sell the machine as OSS supported software.

    When it comes down to hardware issues, I'm certain that each Linux distro group will support tools to determine that it is hardware vs. software. Once that is done there is no reason not to ship boxes with Linux installed. Dell doesn't have to choose which distro to suppport. Let each distro sign up and if they don't, don't sell boxes with that distro installed.

    To me it seems just too simple to be this difficult.
  • The best I can come up with is just pick Ubuntu for instance, outsouce support to cannonical (big contract for them, perhaps several others). They would immediately become the community's champions and mass distribution will result in networks of emerging experts to help their friends out. No need for centralized support, if its everybody's os, its everybody's responsibility to help others out.
  • by ArmorFiend ( 151674 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:50PM (#18312350) Homepage Journal
    When cars first came out, they broke down all the time, and every driver was also his own mechanic. This persisted through to the 60s when men were still expected to be able to fix a car by pulling up the hood and futzing about. You also saw a lot of opining about the internals of how cars should be put together.

    Then Toyota showed up, and made cars that stopped breaking down. Gradually, nobody was hyper-opinionated about the internals of cars, till we get to the point today where nobody but Toyota dealership can actually understand the internals.

    Same with Linux distros. We've been so starved of turnkey solutions for so long, that we're all hyper knowedgable distro experts! Just like the early auto operator/mechanics. Of course these people are going to have fine-grained and diverse favorites.

    When someone gets a new laptop and figures out that its "good enough", they'll stop worrying that it doesn't have Slack (or whathaveyou), and just appreciate its "good enough"ness. This can't happen from the demand side, the supply side has to lead the way. Then the userbase of Linux will change. Then we'll start to complain bitterly. Remember when AOL happened and the Internet started to suck? That fate awaits Linux too.


    And anywho, nobody's asking them to support every possible distribution for their computers. They're asking for two things:

    1) support SOME distro, it doesn't matter what it is
    2) open source any hardware wierdness you control, stuff like sleep/suspend, software volume control buttons, and whatnot. Just put that stuff out there and all the big distros will automatically move to support you. That's what distros do.

    We're not asking, say, Toshiba to create a huge linux compile farm and put out Toshutils for every distro. Just expose the API, create a reference implementation, and let the community do the rest.
    • I also find it ironic that all the Windows Vendors seek to add Value Added crapplets to their version of windows, yet whine about the opportunity to give Value Added by making a better distro choice than their competitors.
  • The most obvious [problem] is deciding which version of Linux to offer. There are more than 100 distros, and everybody seems to want a different one...

    While this might seem like a proble to tha average Slashdot geek who is used to demanding the ability to "roll their own" and so on, these are not the people that Dell would be selling to. Dell would be targeting people that want to unpack the box, plug it in and boot it up and get straight away to surfing the net and running some office applications, maybe

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Americano ( 920576 )
      These mythical people, Dell's customers for preloaded Linux, the ones who don't demand the ability to "roll their own"? Yeah, when they're offered a choice of Windows or Linux, they're going to say, "Oh, whatever everybody else uses," or "The same thing as I use at work, of course!" And I guarantee that that will be Windows, 95% or more of the time.

      The people bitching at Dell for these Linux desktops are not dear old mom & pop who just want a cheap, easy to use system. It's the Linux power users w
  • Yes, Linux is no piece of cake to support to naive users, but is Windows that much better?

    I've dealt with so many naive Windows users who couldn't (or don't know how) to install the most basic of Virus/Spyware protection, or how fix the most basic of issues.

    I guess it's a matter of the lesser of two evils. Dell would rather help "naive" Windows users then perhaps open the door to something more secure and support "naive" users there instead.
  • Remember VA Linux? They were going to make Linux PCs. Biggest IPO first-day runup in history. Then the stock declined 98% from the peak. Nobody is going to get funding for that idea for a while.

    The more likely player is Lenovo. They're not as beholden to Microsoft as Dell is, they can offer corporate support through IBM, and they've sold Linux laptops outside the US.

  • This reminds me of pretty much the only Simpson's episode I ever saw....

    Bart does something to piss off a large crowd. They start chasing him, our for vengeance. A car pulls to to a screeching stop in front of Bart and a well dressed man offers Bart a get-away ride.

    Bart says quickly, "angry mod" ... "stranger" ... looks at the furious crowd rapidly approaching ... "angry mod" ... turn to the car "stranger" ... and hops in. (or something like that, it was years ago)

    I can just imagine execs at Dell .... "g
  • So Dell spends a $million studying which Linux distro (including desktop) is best for Dell, and then supports that one. Probably its own distro derived from one that has a strong commercial support contract for Dell. It doesn't support anything but the basic use-case, whether that's office suite, web/email/whatever server, web terminal, or whichever. Then they sell PC configured only that way, and tell people who buy it that reconfiguring it for any other use case voids their support warranty.

    If they did th
  • by Foofoobar ( 318279 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @11:58PM (#18312406)
    Dell supports their PC's and will try to make sure the device is working but will not sit there and try to support every different Microsoft app that there is. They only try to support basic functionality and basic apps and stick to security, integration and general software maintenance.

    So how is this different from supporting Linux? All they have to do is create a knowledgeable support staff, good knowledge base and they'll have pretty much the same thing they have for Windows. It's really not that hard once they make the decision as to what distro they are going to support, strike a deal with the distro's maintainers, and maybe even farm out the support to the distros maintainers or a third party. Pretty simple when you think about it.
  • The article's OK, but the title of the post should be "Why (some dude thinks) Dell Won't Offer Linux..." etc.
  • Would it be that far fetched that someone is paying Dell to *not* fully endorse/support Linux? These stories about Dell "will soon support linux" have been published about once a year for the last ten years. I don't think it's ever going to happen, and I would just conclude that a large company with vested interest in seeing Linux fail is responsible for it. A lot of other vendors support Linux, the main difference here is that Dell is the largest distributor of new Windows/Intel PC's.
  • Acer from Walmart (Score:5, Informative)

    by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @12:01AM (#18312434) Homepage Journal
    Several months ago I bought a cheap laptop from Walmart. I found out from Acer's website they had a Linux cd distribution that I could download. What did this mean to me? Everything worked together, including wireless, sound, and accelerated video. Trying a different distribution, like Ubuntu worked without any hassles. Since then, I bought several other laptops from Walmart knowing they took time to make sure their laptops supported a free operating system. They have been the most trouble free units I have had the pleasure of giving my family. Its a shame Dell doesn't latch onto this idea.
  • by e**(i pi)-1 ( 462311 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @12:05AM (#18312460) Homepage Journal
    I would already be happier, if there was the option to buy systems without operating system. Dell could sell such systems cheaper not only because of the lacking windows system but also because they would not have to offer support for OS issues.
  • Look, taking a generic laptop and running Linux on that is NOT all that exciting. How about Instead, create a multi-core laptop with low power. In addition, drop the battery. Use a super capacitor. The battery is good for a couple of years. But a supercapacitor will last longer than the laptop. Of course, that means that much lower power (instead of several hours, it will only be about an hour. But in general, the average person has power close by. If they can plug in and be fully charged in a matter of min
  • Why Won't It Work? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <<logicnazi> <at> <>> on Monday March 12, 2007 @12:20AM (#18312550) Homepage
    I very much doubt the support issue is the problem. If enough people would buy it Dell could just start the Dell Computer Expert line and make it damn clear that you don't order one unless you know what your doing and their is no support on anything but the hardware. Hell if they were worried enough about their name they could just sell them under some name other than Dell.

    I suspect the problem is economic.

    For starters I bet people demanding linux are far more willing to voice demands than they are to put up money. I bet tons of the people who asked dell to offer a linux PC wouldn't really buy one. They might like linux but when it comes time to buy a new computer they decide to dull boot and realize it's cheaper just to buy the computer preloaded with windows. Even if this isn't the case the possibility that linux advocates make more noise than they would buy computers is something Dell must consider.

    Secondly Dell doesn't have apps to sell people who buy linux only boxes printer ink and all sorts of other high margin items. If anything the problem is they realize the people who buy linux boxes wouldn't buy extended support, at least not the sort of support it was economical to offer. Dell probably has a nearly zero margin on the basic PC and makes up their money on the extras. Why bother selling a linux PC if the purchasers are smart enough not to buy any of the high margin extras?

    Finally there is the concern of pissing off MS. Whatever anti-trust rulings MS is constrained by why risk pissing them off unless it would bring you a high margin business?

    The issue isn't offering support it is making money!
  • by cab15625 ( 710956 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @12:28AM (#18312606)
    If they would just make a laptop that is fully compatible (ie, every piece of hardware, right down to the fscking hotkeys on the the keyboard and standards compliance in every single fscking aspect of ACPI) all they would need is a token distro and any linux user with a preference could at least feel safe that they weren't wasting money on hardware that they could never make use of. Put Ubuntu on it and let the user format/install their distro of preference. Who cares once the compatibility is settled.

    NO (absolutely none what-so-ever) ATI cards unless ATI decides to at least produce a binary driver that works (prefereably source, but at the very least, something that actually works as advertised and works in linux, not just for Toms hardware under the most fully patched version of WinXP)

    NO (absolutely none what-so-ever) Phoenix BIOS unless they're willing to release every single last detail about ACPI, etc. to the kernel devs ... ditto for any other BIOS manufacturer.

    Basically if Dell could do that, it wouldn't matter what distro they put on (I said Ubuntu because it's nice and flashy and is free and has left most of the libraries reasonably unmollested, unlike some distros ... I use Slackware myself)

    This much should not be hard for a company with resources like Dell or Gateway or Toshiba to pull off ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Stormie ( 708 )

      If they would just make a laptop that is fully compatible (ie, every piece of hardware, right down to the fscking hotkeys on the the keyboard..
      I feel your pain - it seems that the "u" key on your keyboard isn't working at all.
  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Monday March 12, 2007 @12:35AM (#18312646)
    I'm surely gonna get troll rated for this, but it needs to be said...

    I've been there done that. Had an Amiga, used Linux and so forth at one time or another. I remember with the Amiga how many of us wrote letters to Software, Etc. or other companies begging them to support our computers. And then the demand never materialized as we claimed it would. So eventually, the Amiga was dropped to the dustbin of history. After buying a PC, I came to realize that the Amiga really wasn't "better", it was simply different. advanced in some ways, behind in others.

    The Linux "demand" is similar. It's largely just astroturfing, rather than real demand from customers. It's people from /. going over to the polls on the Dell opinion site and clicking "Yes" thousands of times. [Or did you not realize that advocacy groups can astroturf as well as corporate groups?]

    I'm fairly certainly Dell understands this. They've been around a long time. At one time they even release their own version of System V which was highly regarded in the industry. So they're not unfamiliar with Unix. They've also at various times offered machines without operating systems, or even with Linux.

    But the demand wasn't there, which is why they keep falling back to the position they are in, and why despite freeping their poll they are unlikely to listen to it. Maybe they will, and if they do, you'd better start buying your machines from Dell to backup your poll answers.

    As for open source advocates starting up their own company to sell machines. It's been tried. It was called VA Linux. They changed their name, abandoned selling computers and now run sourceforge.

  • by FunWithKnives ( 775464 ) <> on Monday March 12, 2007 @12:41AM (#18312672) Journal

    The most obvious [problem] is deciding which version of Linux to offer. There are more than 100 distros, and everybody seems to want a different one -- or the same one with a different desktop, or whatever...

    There is a horribly easy solution for this "problem": Support only one major distro, yet make sure that all hardware included with the PC is compatible with Linux. Slap a "Linux Certified" sticker on the damn thing and quite a few people will buy it. If they're more advanced, then they'll appreciate the fact that when they install their favorite distro instead of whatever the PC comes with, they won't have to hunt down a forum thread that points to an obscure hardware driver that is still in alpha, because they know that the hardware will "Just Work (tm)." If they're new to computers, or are the "A computer is an appliance" type, they won't have any need to switch from the supplied distro to anything else in the first place. It's a win win situation.

    Either this guy didn't think his objections through very well, or he is just spouting FUD and hoping people take it at face value.

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.