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Dell Refuses to Sell Ubuntu to Business 522

An anonymous reader writes "I had a surreal experience with Dell today. My boss asked me to order a new computer for our small, non-profit business. Wanting to support Dell in their decision to sell computers with Ubuntu installed, I decided to order one. First, I talked to a small business representative, who informed me that I could not order one of the Ubuntu-based computers through the small business department. I had to go through the "home and home office" department. I called the Home office department. I asked the representative if I could buy one of the ubuntu computers for my company. She said (and I quote), "these Dell computers are designed for personal use only, as long as you use it for personal use, you can purchase one." So I lied and said I would.... Next, I tried to buy it on our business credit card. They would have none of that. She told me that I had to buy it through a personal card. Now, as a non-profit, our business does not pay sales tax (10% in Tennessee). Had I bought it with my own card, I would have had to pay tax (~$90), which my company would not have reimbursed me for. Dell today."
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Dell Refuses to Sell Ubuntu to Business

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  • by krovisser ( 1056294 ) * on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @08:59AM (#19577937)
    The seemingly more stupid and less customer orientated they are. Those damned corporations.
  • by thebdj ( 768618 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @08:59AM (#19577949) Journal
    Dell has been selling systems through the business end with FreeDos for a while now. Purchase one of those and install Ubuntu yourself. It really isn't that hard and you can actually customize the install to what components you actually need. Or you could purchase one and install any free distro you want.

    I can list the millions of reasons why they only want to sell it as "personal use". Remember, Dell (and any other PC company) is still a business designed to make money and if they cannot please everyone all of the time, oh well.
  • And you quit? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:05AM (#19578059)
    Umm, and you didn't hang up and call them back and get another salesperson who doesn't give a crap?

    Thats the tactic I use. You always run into stubborn people in the service industry, but 9 times out of 10, the next person you reach won't care either way and will process your transaction just fine.
  • by walt-sjc ( 145127 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:07AM (#19578089)
    Furthermore, Dell business support and consumer support are TOTALLY different groups. It's quite probably that the business group has no ability (training, etc.) to support Ubuntu boxes.
  • If you're a business (Score:2, Informative)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:16AM (#19578279) Journal
    How about getting the laptop with Windows XP anyway? Just make sure you get enough RAM - 1GB or even 2GB.

    Then wipe it and install Ubuntu and keep the license key handy. This way if you ever need windows you can run Windows XP on vmware on the laptop if you need it.

    It's convenient to have a spare Windows XP machine around esp for most businesses.

    At work I run windows XP on vmware server, on suse. And I set up a file share directory for the XP "machine" to write more "permanent" stuff to.

    So if something really strange happens to the windows machine I just click "revert to snapshot", and I end up with a working XP. That said so far in my usage, XP hasn't really been a problem.

    In fact, IE on XP on vmware sometimes takes up less memory than firefox on suse.

    I've had a blue screen of death after just a few minutes of using vista, bad drivers or whatever who cares - that's been my only BSOD this _YEAR_ so far. So I strongly recommend against spending money to _downgrade_ to Vista, endure all the bugs AND help Microsoft extend its monopoly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:21AM (#19578353)
    I too cringe when I hear "orientated." However, for some reason this time I decided to look it up.

    Main Entry: orientated
    Function: adjective
    Usage: chiefly British
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:22AM (#19578369)
    He didn't actually say he took his business elsewhere. Just that he didn't buy Dell _today_.
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:24AM (#19578403) Homepage Journal
    LinuxCertified [] sells laptops with various Linux distros preloaded and fully supported.
  • System76 (Score:5, Informative)

    by ciroknight ( 601098 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:31AM (#19578535) [] Great laptops, reasonable prices, Ubuntu ships on the beasts. What more could you ask for?
  • Re:GPL infringement? (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@[ ... m ['bar' in gap]> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:37AM (#19578653) Journal

    "Nice Try. But Dell's not just selling you Ubuntu, its also selling you the computer on which you're running it. And they *can* place additional restrictions on the hardware."

    No they can't. It has nothing to do with the gpl, and everything to do with consumer protection laws (even business purchases are covered in many jurisdictions by the implied warranty of fitness for use). Unless the hardware comes with a per-seat or per-user license, which is not the case here, they cannot tell you how to use it. All they can do is refuse warranty support if its been abused. That is their SOLE option/recourse.

    Buy the damn thing and get a refund on the Windows license. The instructions have been posted on the net, including here on slashdot, often enough ... (and tag another $100 onto your claim, for wasted time, since they refused to sell you one without a Windows license, and take them to small claims court for the extra $100).

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:50AM (#19578881) Homepage Journal

    I know, the subject is simply not true. But this the perception out there nonetheless...

    She said (and I quote), "these Dell computers are designed for personal use only, as long as you use it for personal use, you can purchase one."

    My recent surreal experience went like that (talking to sysadmins in a giant financial company, with thousands of Unix-servers):

    • Hi, can we, please, have the OpenSSH package added to our Solaris 8 boxes?
    • No, not OpenSSH — we can put Foo SSH for you, we have a site-wide license for that.
    • Yeah, but the newer Solaris 10 machines come with OpenSSH, and Foo has some minor incompatibilities with it (scp does not work right)...
    • Sorry, OpenSSH is GPL-ed, and so we can not use it here .
    • What? That's double untrue — OpenSSH is BSD-licensed, and even if it were GPLed, there is nothing preventing us from using it — only if we were to modify it, would we run into any license provisions!
    • Sorry, that's our department's view — talk to such and such... We can disable OpenSSH on the Solaris 10 boxes for you, and install Foo SSH there, if you need the compatibility...

    How do you like that?

  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:52AM (#19578909) Journal
    No need. Business class machines have the "No OS" option right there with the other OS options. I use that more than I use the pre-installed linux options, frankly. I like being able to set it up myself, and choose what I want to be installed.
  • Re:So... (Score:2, Informative)

    by sogoodsofarsowhat ( 662830 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:59AM (#19579045)
    Exactly. For all i care Dell can DIAF!! Slam Apple all you want they pretty much dont give a DAMN what you do with thier systems. You got the money....they will sell to you. Heck i have a Corporate Sales Rep from Apple becuase i started replacing my companies PC's with Mac's 100%......they noticed me buying a mac or 2 a month and called me up and assigned me lower pricing and a corporate rep. I have now had several long discussions with my rep and explained that a Mac Mini for most of our users was all they needed. He never once cared that i was buying an entry level systems designed for home users but instead using them in my business. As he said "Buy what fits your need best." I replied thats why i am buying Macs. So for all you dell fan boys heres one more case of why Dell should not be purchased from...NO VENDOR tells me what i do with the gear i buy....NONE! If i physically own a piece of hardware than it is mine to do with what i want as i see fit. Are you Sheep?
  • Re:Probably Red-Tape (Score:1, Informative)

    by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:01AM (#19579069)
    That's bullshit, I have confirmation from a Dell representative that hardware warranty is honored irrespective of the OS used.
  • by pavera ( 320634 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:02AM (#19579101) Homepage Journal
    He stated clearly he was buying a laptop not a server, so this story has nothing to do with what dell thinks about ubuntu on a "server" class machine.

    Further, I think you mis-understand the definition of FUD. Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt... Well, he tried to buy an ubuntu laptop for his business and was told in no uncertain terms "No". That seems pretty certain, I bet if you call right now and try to order an ubuntu laptop for your business they'll tell you the same thing. He isn't spreading FUD here, he is simply stating a fact that if you try to purchase an ubuntu laptop in a tax advantaged way through Dell, you will be denied.

    Maybe this situation will change in the future, maybe the business department will start supporting them in the future. For now, it is a completely accurate statement to say "Dell does not sell ubuntu laptops to businesses". That is accurate, truthful, and very much not FUD.

  • Re:System76 (Score:5, Informative)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:13AM (#19579273) Homepage Great laptops, reasonable prices, Ubuntu ships on the beasts. What more could you ask for?

    I tried configuring a computer on system76 and Dell, and when you put together comparable machines, the system76 one is several hundred dollars more expensive.
  • by mhall119 ( 1035984 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:20AM (#19579387) Homepage Journal []

    Unless you're talking about a deal with Dell to supply business support, in which case you may be right.
  • This is strange (Score:3, Informative)

    by MoxFulder ( 159829 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:09AM (#19580271) Homepage
    I know that Dell has been marketing the Ubuntu systems as intended for "Home and Home Office". And I know that they play LOTS of games with their prices, selling the same system to different market segments for surprisingly different prices.

    For example, compare the specs of the $699 Home Inspiron 1501 [] to the $549 Small Business 1501 []! The latter costs $150 less but has the EXACT SAME SPECS except for a smaller battery (a $30 upgrade). So you can basically get a 20% discount by buying the small biz version... Then again, sometimes the promotions for the home systems are better. The deals and discounts are CONSTANTLY changing, so I go to, which does a good job keeping track of them.

    The thing is, in my experience Dell doesn't care if individuals buy Small Business systems or vice versa. Heck, they don't even care if some random person buys a computer through their Employee and Affiliate Program []. For example, a few weeks ago I got a really good deal on a new Inspiron 1501 by buying it through the affiliate program... I just gave them my home CC number and mailing address, and sure enough the computer arrived a week later. :-)

    I think the difference might be ordering online vs. ordering over the phone! When you order online, there appears to be absolutely zero verification of whether your home/business/affiliate purchase is going to the right place... but over the phone there may be some stupid bureaucracy in your way. To the OP, I suggest trying to do your order again online!
  • Re:Probably Red-Tape (Score:4, Informative)

    by pboyd2004 ( 860767 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:14AM (#19580363)
    You really don't seem to know what your talking about. Redhat is SOLD by Dell on all of their server models. And I happen to know that they support both hardware and some software issues with Redhat as your OS. They even create alot of driver update packages and other support things for Redhat and SLES on servers.
  • Re:So... (Score:0, Informative)

    by MadnessASAP ( 1052274 ) <> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:15AM (#19580379) [] Sells a whole range of Linux laptops, granted I never bought any of them but companies selling Linux computers do exist.
  • Re:This is strange (Score:3, Informative)

    by MoneyT ( 548795 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:31AM (#19580685) Journal
    The difference was, he was trying to make a tax exempt purchase. When it's a consumer buying a business machine, Dell assumes no real liability. When Dell doesn't charge you tax however, they are 100% liable for that tax until they prove to the tax department that your purchase was on the up and up. When you're dealing with tax exempt purchases, you better expect the merchant to follow the book exactly to the letter. If they don't it's their ass on the line. The submitter should puchase on his card and go through the reimbursement process with the state if he doesn't want to pay tax and still wants a linux based dell.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Micah ( 278 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:32AM (#19580701) Homepage Journal
    > Except if you're looking for FOSS OS laptop, where do you take it?

    I'd say PowerNotebooks []. They sell most laptops without Windows if you want, and they are pretty cluefull people.

    I ordered a PowerPro A:38 from them, a rebranded ASUS Z84JP. It runs Kubuntu Feisty like a dream. It is truly the ultimate Linux power laptop that I had been looking for. :)
  • Re:Employee Gift (Score:3, Informative)

    by MoneyT ( 548795 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:34AM (#19580723) Journal
    Because it'a tax exempt purchase. In order for it to be tax exempt the purchase must be made with the exempt organizations funds and must be used for the purposes of the exempt organization's business. Employee gifts would not count.
  • by deanlandolt ( 1004507 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:39AM (#19580829) Journal

    ...only if we were to modify it, would we run into any license provisions!
    Still short of the mark. Only if you were to distribute those modifications would you run into any restrictions.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Informative)

    by e4g4 ( 533831 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:39AM (#19580831)
    Even if Apple shipped a machine with no OS installed - you'd still be paying for OS X by purchasing it. Apple subsidizes their OS development with profits from their hardware division.
  • Re:Probably Red-Tape (Score:2, Informative)

    by CCW ( 125740 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @12:20PM (#19581699)
    The proper way to handle this issue is to send an email to your procurement people telling them that their preferred vendor is failing to provide the contracted service and you would like them to escalate it with their contacts and request a hold on future business with the vendor until they are performing per their contract. CC your dell salesrep if you know them. My 40000 person company would never put a hold on a contract on my say so, but the request always seems to get the desired result. Dell is one of the vendors I have used this tactic with successfully.
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @12:42PM (#19582153) Homepage
    ...and charging rediculous prices too.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Informative)

    by BobPaul ( 710574 ) * on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @01:24PM (#19582927) Journal
    'No OS' still gives hardware support. Dell's Ubuntu software support is supplied by Canonical. Purchase support from them separately and directly if you need it.
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @02:33PM (#19584139) Homepage Journal
    "Microsoft's per-processor licensing survives, but in the form of per-model licensing. I'm sure that Michael Dell had to personally kiss Steve Ballmer's pinky ring in order to provide Ubuntu without having Microsoft double their Windows licensing fees. Part of the agreement being to keep it out of their business computers."

    Not so sure. I just was playing around on the small business part of the site, seeing what a server would cost to put together. There was an option for NO OS installed. Granted, that's not the same as having a Linux install on the box from factory, but, you don't have a MS tax on the, not much difference there as far as MS getting their cut from every box....?

  • Re:System76 (Score:3, Informative)

    by cooley ( 261024 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @02:38PM (#19584217) Homepage
    CyberPower PC is a company I've had several good experiences with. They don't sell Linux on their laptops, but you can get them with no OS: []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @03:21PM (#19584839)
    Even though pricing out two similar systems with one being more expensive you have to remember that not all systems are created equally.

    Dig down and compare things like chipsets and things like measured memory performance before you decide that two systems are actually comparable (even two systems with the same major chipsets can have different performance characteristics). Also, make sure you are getting the same number and type of expansion slots (for Desktops anyway).

    I avoid places like Dell because you can't control which motherboard you are getting (you get some unnamed Dell-branded one with no detailed technical specs) which has a big impact on system performance.

    And finally, consider the value of your dollar based on it's influence in the market. "I'm going to buy from your competitor" has different market impact than "well, I'll buy from you to save $100 even though I don't like it".

    I can't vouch for System76 as I have never used them but I sure like the idea and would strongly consider supporting them if I was in the market (however, I would rather get a new Apple laptop to replace my old G4 PowerBook, I've been using BSD-based systems for nearly 25 years). And again, I look at total value, not just price -- but even then, when I price out laptops to be truly similar to the Apple's I don't find any significant price difference. (Don't forget to include battery-life, screen resolution, brightness, contrast, overall quality, firewire support, etc when comparing laptops).
  • by jbreckman ( 917963 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @03:25PM (#19584903)
    Their main laptop, spec'd out to what a macbook has, costs is $1300, $200 more than a macbook. If you want Ubuntu that bad, buy a macbook (probably a better laptop), and throw ubuntu on there.
  • Mod the hell up. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ayanami Rei ( 621112 ) * <rayanami@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @03:41PM (#19585127) Journal
    I don't know what the hell people in this discussion are smoking. Dell most definitely supports linux on many of their configurations for small/large business and government divisions. They don't sell SuSE on most of the laptops or desktops, but the higher-end workstation ones do have them as options. They sell RHEL service contracts on the servers, and even go through the trouble of making the configurators hide options that different OSs don't support. And they will never tell you that you voided your warranty because you installed a different OS (no matter what it is).

    Home/Home Office is the shitty, loss-leader part of Dell. Don't deal with them. Ever.
  • Re:Probably Red-Tape (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @04:48PM (#19586185)
    I just want to confirm that this is total BS. I work at Dell. What may be happening here is a communications issue. The OS is not supported, but I assure you the hardware is. There are no real Windows (as in requiring the customer to boot their install) diagnostic programs for checking hardware that Dell requires be run. The diags are either loaded on the drive on a secondary partition, or also available from the resource CD (It's bootable). In any case, let's say that for whatever reason they refused to support the hardware while that OS was installed.. It does not void your warranty. This is just FUD... _Especially_ the part about not supporting a new computer because of past computers.

Neutrinos have bad breadth.