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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. So.....no Dell today."
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Dell Refuses to Sell Ubuntu to Business

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  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cs02rm0 ( 654673 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @08:56AM (#19577883)
    ...take your business, literally, elsewhere?
  • Employee Gift (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lathama ( 639499 ) <lathama@latha[ ]com ['ma.' in gap]> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @08:56AM (#19577887) Homepage Journal
    Why not purchase as an employee gift. I would not buy from Dell myself but if I did that is what I would do.

    "Its Mary's 30th year with the organization, we want to do something special for her."
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ronadams ( 987516 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @08:59AM (#19577943) Homepage
    Except if you're looking for FOSS OS laptop, where do you take it? Even most custom build places push Windows to every system. This is a real disappointment. Is Dell trying to avoid supporting these machines in a corporate environment? That's half-assed support, and Dell should be held accountable for it. Either stand behind your product, with the disclaimer that Linux-based may not work for everyone, or don't sell the damn things at all.
  • Probably Red-Tape (Score:4, Insightful)

    by genmax ( 990012 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @08:59AM (#19577955)
    They probably have a system in place that allows only businesses to buy business PCs, irrespective of whether its running Linux or not. And they probably see Ubuntu as only being appropriate for personal work, hence ..

    Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence. Doesn't make this any less annoying though !
  • Price.. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Mockylock ( 1087585 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:03AM (#19578019) Homepage
    It isn't really a huge price difference between XP and Linux after buying it from Dell anyway. I'm guessing the businesses have the option to purchase larger support options, and they don't want to have to deal with that at the moment. Plus, there's probably a pact between them and Microsoft, when it comes to mass orders from businesses.

    Ya never know. That is strange though.
  • by 8127972 ( 73495 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:03AM (#19578021)
    As it would appear that they sell LINUX computers so that they can get positive mindshare from the Slashdot types, but they don't want to make it TOO available to people like businesses so that they don't get Micro$soft too angry when they go to re-negotiate their OEM agreement.

    What this basically means is that LINUX is no further ahead at the end of the day.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:06AM (#19578079)
    Dell wants to sell computers with Linux on them, (or, even better, SAY that they do) they just don't want to have to support computers with Linux on them.
  • by genmax ( 990012 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:07AM (#19578109)
    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.
  • by mnslinky ( 1105103 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:09AM (#19578143) Homepage
    Yet another big company that looks like it's doing a good thing, that only turns out it's performing some lame marketing stunt. My guess is that these Ubuntu machines will be short lived in their product line-up. This on top of the story (last week?) about Dell also not providing a warranty on these machines? At least their servers are all right. I'd never be caught with one of their PCs.
  • by quarkoid ( 26884 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:14AM (#19578223) Homepage
    > American Consumers are DUMB!

    Yes. Along with pretty much any nationality you can think of. We're all dumb.

    If Dell won't sell one particular configuration through one particular channel, there'll be a reason for it. More likely than not, it's not profitable for them to do so - it'll cost them more to do you a special than they'll make back in profit.

    If that's the case, they don't want your money - they may just as well mail you a check/cheque for the difference and call it quits. They're hardly likely to do that now are they?

    I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who complain when a company won't take their cash. If they won't take it, they don't want it and your complaining isn't going to do anything about it.

    Anyway, allow me to climb down off my hobby-horse. If you want to make Dell pay, buy a normal Windows-ified PC and claim the money back as per the EULA.

    So, don't complain - you have no right to complain. However, what you do have is a choice. Use it.
  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy.gmail@com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:16AM (#19578255) Journal
    It's not about that. Dell makes "Business computers" they have whole lines of "business" computers, very specific models; Optiplex, Precision, PowerEdge. They come with a limited number of OS choices...which includes Redhat Enterprise and SUSE Enterprise.

    You can't buy Ubuntu on one of those, and you can't buy windows xp either. Clearly Dell views Ubuntu as "not ready for the server" and is unwilling to put it on a server class machine. You can still buy the machine with no OS, and add Ubuntu yourself.
  • by Skye16 ( 685048 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:27AM (#19578453)
    Why is it somehow bad to call out a company for a stupid business decision?

    I mean, I don't have to buy for them, but I sure as hell don't have to hold back my "they're stupid monkey fucking gutter slut" comments, either.

    Plus, it's nice to know for the rest of us. It's nice to know what businesses to avoid if the situation ever comes up.

    It's pretty pathetic that you complain about the right to free speech. American Consumers are dumb? I'd say the idiot who bitches about free speech is dumb. But hey, far be it from me to stop you. Even retards are allowed to get their say in. Freedom of speech and all.
  • by neersign ( 956437 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:29AM (#19578491)

    www.dell.com/linux [dell.com] still works too, and you can see that they have links to "dell and novell, dell and red hat, dell and ubuntu" as well as "Workstations for Office" and "FreeDOS Desktops for Office", among others. So, I understand that the point of the article was "i wanted to support Dell's decision to sell Ubuntu", but if the end goal was simply to have a Dell system that shipped with Linux then the guy simply missed all of the options that are there.

    I still don't think there is anyway to find that page without directly going to dell.com/linux, which is sad.

  • That would be why they offer redhat support [dell.com] and SuSE support as well.

    The full list of supported linux can be found here [dell.com]. Just because one guy wants to buy one machine that doesn't come with Ubuntu, everyone is up in arms. Dell never claimed that they were going to offer it on every machine. They're damn careful what they offer for business machines in general, and you can always get a business class machine with no OS.

    Buncha fricking sheep. Dell's making a good effort on linux.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:32AM (#19578555) Journal
    This habit of jerking customers around is why they're going to follow Gateway down the drain. Good for HP and Apple, sucks for Dell's customers and shareholders.


  • FUD FUD FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:34AM (#19578589) Journal
    Look, I'm no DELL fanboy but it's obvious that in an organization as large as Dell it's going to take time for the whole company to be on the same track. There could be any of a number of LEGITIMATE reasons for what you encountered. I'm just going to guess, but one reason COULD BE that they are not yet ready to support biz fully and that they are starting off with personal use first and will soon add biz support as soon as the contracts are signed, people are trained, testing and evaluation, etc.

    Just because Dell says we will support LINUX today does not mean tomorrow morning everything will be good to go. BTW...the prior sentence uses exaggerations to make a point. If you don't get it you don't get it.
  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:08AM (#19579187) Homepage Journal
    That sounds like a match made in hell. You get to enjoy all the disadvantages of Linux *and* all the disadvantages of Windows at the same time. Your Windows services and kernel are still exposed to malware, you have all the DRM fun of the Windows world, and you have more overhead when running the UNIX applications you bought the computer for.
  • by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:11AM (#19579237)

    I understand where Dell is coming from with their lack of support for Ubuntu

    That is fine. I just want the ability to buy a computer at a good price, on hardware that Ubuntu has been tested to run on (and works on). I'd be happy if Dell said they wouldn't offer software support for Linux, just hardware support. (of course diagnosis of hardware could be an issue if they don't want to even know about the OS but they could always provide some sort of Dell 'live' hardware diagnosis disk)

    I think Dell could get away with selling machines marketed as "Hardware tested against Ubuntu 7.04" etc, so you know the distro will work with it out of the box. I don't care if they have actually installed the OS, or if the disk just comes bundled with it for me to do.

    1) Sell Hardware 'Certified for Ubuntu x.xx'
    2) Set price at: Normal retail minus nominal cost of Dells discounted 'Windows OS'
    3) State clearly that you'll support the hardware, but not the OS.
    4) Bundle the Ubuntu OS disk in the box or have it pre-installed, perhaps include a 'live CD' for Dell to diagnose hardware.
    5) Point users at a www.dell.ubuntu.com forums for Community OS support.
    6) Don't have a problem with some third party offering a $0.99/min help line.
    7) Oblig: ????
    8) Oblig: Profit!
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:27AM (#19579499) Homepage

    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. [..] So for all you dell fan boys heres one more case of why Dell should not be purchased from...
    Go back and consider what the original point of the story was, and answer this question: Will Apple sell you a Macintosh *without* Mac OS and/or with Linux? No? Enough said.

    Yes, I'm sure Apple will graciously let you replace Mac OS with a Mac-compatible Linux. Just like Dell will let you replace Windows with Linux.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:04AM (#19580203) Homepage

    I'm not sure if you're aware of this. Apple sells hardware primarily.
    Whereas Dell's business revolves around selling dreams and pixie dust, I suppose?

    Thank you for the deliberately patronising lesson, but I'm well aware of how Apple work, and your assertion that they're a hardware business is questionable. Why? Because although they may make their money on the hardware, that same hardware is nowadays near-identical to generic x86 PCs and the reason people buy it is so it can run the Mac OS.

    Disagree? I'd be interested to find out whether your average Mac fanatic- if forced to- would rather use Mac OS on a half-decent generic PC or Windows running on Mac hardware.

    The OS is considered free with the purchase of the hardware.
    That's a matter of perspective, don't quote it like it's gospel. Apple certainly charge for upgraded versions of the software, and so it's probably more accurate to say that the hardware and OS are included in the price. As I said, no-one would buy the hardware alone.
  • by laffer1 ( 701823 ) <luke@foolishgame[ ]om ['s.c' in gap]> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:12AM (#19580327) Homepage Journal
    1. Lie. Always tell tell its their OS and you ran the windows program...
    2. Why did you make the same mistake twice? If they didn't support linux on the server, why tell them about the desktop?
    3. Keep calling. I had a problem with them not honoring systems at my last job because we had our own XP image. I told its normal for businesses to run common images so suck it up and support us. One guy wouldn't but another indian agreed to it. They did support the netware box we had.

    Take your business elsewhere if they won't support their hardware.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bberens ( 965711 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:19AM (#19580423)
    It's not about getting ubuntu to run on a box. In business, it's about getting vendor support.
  • by jonatha ( 204526 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:24AM (#19580517)
    There is a per user license for Ubuntu. It's called the GPL. You did agree to the GPL license in Ubuntu before you used Ubuntu right? If not, you are using it illegally.


    GPL section 5 (emphasis added): "You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works."

    GPL section 0 (ditto) : "The act of running the Program is not restricted."

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cavtroop ( 859432 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:24AM (#19580521)
    what if you want to buy it with Ubuntu pre-loaded, so you can get support?
  • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:30AM (#19580657) Homepage
    ... Is Dell trying to avoid supporting these machines in a corporate environment? That's half-assed support, and Dell should be held accountable for it. Either stand behind your product, with the disclaimer that Linux-based may not work for everyone, or don't sell the damn things at all ...

    Dell is doing exactly what you recommend, they do not want to offer half-assed support to businesses so they do not sell it to businesses. Keep in mind that Dell has completely different support teams for home and business. The business side will take a much longer time to train up on Linux than the home side, more variations and usage patterns. Also keep in mind that the economics/profitability of Linux is entirely different for home vs business. Home is probably more likely to just go with a canned configuration, business more likely to customize the Linux installation. Ubuntu should have been a clue that this was home centric.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:34AM (#19580733)
    Dell just started a new offering. They are new to the Linux Desktop game, the first large scale pc manufacturer to do so (of the top 5). Cut them some slack. The cannot be expected to turn up a such an undertaking over night. They are starting with the lowest impact and working up. They need to hone the system and build their skills. They also need to feel out Linux's growth. Plus, the application set and patience level of business consumers is vastly different from the home consumer. Give them time and they will provide all the Linux crap you want. Just give them a break.
  • Re:System76 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @12:41PM (#19582127) Homepage
    As the saying goes.... You get what you pay for.

    Eh, I don't know, it's not like they're using substandard Intel CPUs or anything. Might skimp on the motherboards or something, but most of the components in laptops come from the same small group of manufacturers.

    I'm not a huge fan of Dell laptops, but I know I could get a comparable HP laptop for significantly cheaper, and I think HP makes reasonably sturdy, good quality laptops (wouldn't touch their desktops though). I think in the end system76 can't compete on price, even without the microsoft tax, just because they can't leverage economies of scale like the larger manufacturers can. If you're going to buy them to support linux and maybe get them in the long run to a point where they CAN compete on price, more power to you, I wish you luck. I just don't think everyone else would think the same way.
  • Seems unlikely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @01:12PM (#19582709)

    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.

    I doubt it. For one thing, there's this little area called antitrust law, under which I'm fairly sure Microsoft aren't allowed to pull that kind of stunt any more. For another thing, for a software company that is (relatively speaking) in big trouble to antagonise a hardware company that is (relatively speaking) one of its major routes to the business market is probably not a smart business move, either.

    Besides, even if Dell start shipping Linux boxes to business, it's hardly likely that this will undermine Microsoft's dominant position on business desktops. It might even work in their favour to encourage this now: things like Linux GUIs and big name products like OpenOffice aren't ready to take on Microsoft in the business world yet. If a few big businesses try to make the switch now and find the OSS-based alternatives aren't good enough, word will get around (no pun intended!) and Microsoft are probably safe for another few years. Try the same experiment in another two or three years, though, and if current rates of progress are anything to go by in OSS world, Microsoft might find themselves with a much more permanent shift taking place that really would damage them seriously.

    In other words, Microsoft probably isn't anywhere close to the bargaining power required to pull this off, and even if it were, it's probably illegal, and even if it were legal, it's probably shortsighted.

  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @01:26PM (#19582961) Homepage Journal
    Actually with todays virtualization bits on the CPU, the virtualized machine is just as fast as native.

    I'm doing it right now. It's very fast, and if you stay well clear of the limits of the machine, you'd have a hard time noticing, but it's not "just as fast as native". It's "just as fast as native would be on a cheaper machine", perhaps, but then it'd be a lot more cost effective and efficient just to get a slower machine that supported the OS you want to virtualize.

    Virtualization on a desktop is mostly useful for people who have to test how something works on multiple operating systems, and for cases where you're dealing with a hostage situation gone bad ... that is, you have an application you need to run that doesn't run on the OS you want to use, so you're hostage to the OS manufacturer. On a server it's mostly useful for operating systems that don't support multiple instances well, or for extremely hard management situations. Kind of like blades are, come to think of it.

    Buying a PC, running Windows on it, and running Linux in a VM under that, when what you're looking for is a machine running Linux, doesn't make any sense at all. You'll be better off buying a less powerful PC if that's what it takes to get Linux support within your budget.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @01:28PM (#19582993)
    So you buy a Dell with no OS or Linux on it. You are still probably paying Microsoft for that box, Microsft may charge by number of units sold with or without the OS, so Dell could get a discount on the OS. Dell can use the money you got from the system to purchase more stock in Microsoft, or to help pay Microsoft consulatants to make sure theire systems are Windows whatever version compatible. If you got an Apple without OS X I doubt that the price of the system will be exactly $120 off the price. It would probably be closer to $25 off the price. (The cost it takes to put the image on the harddrives) Then after you get the system. For most buisness that $25 price difference will be offsetted by the fact with no OS installed it will take a couple extra hours longer to insure the system is working. That extra couple of hours paid for the employee to check the system will be just as much if not more then it would cost for someone to boot into the default OS X Check to see the Drive Works, the amount of Memory is what was purchased the screen looks good and Wireless Card, Eathernet Card... All that can be done in about 15 minutes in OS X. So there is no real savings.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by teh_chrizzle ( 963897 ) <kill-9NO@SPAMhobbiton.org> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @01:39PM (#19583191) Homepage

    you left off the yet in the quote.

    they were founded in 2005. that means that the very first 3 year warranty they ever sold has not yet expired. they haven't had time to stand the test of time. how do i know that they will still be around in two years to honor my warranty?

    emperor has been around significantly longer, which means that they have presumably come up with a working formula. too bad that formula puts them out of my price range.

    don't get me wrong, i fully plan on taking a chance on them when i start back to school, but for my users at work i think i will stick with dell for laptops.

  • Re:Seems unlikely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT evcircuits DOT com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @02:03PM (#19583649) Homepage
    Well, we're talking about the US here. Yes, there are antitrust laws but nobody even cares to enforce them especially when it comes to Microsoft. Remember the antitrust lawsuits in the US? Microsoft came off with not even a wag of the finger.

    Yes they are pulling these stunts every single day. Go to any medium-to-enterprise sized business that has more than one SQL Server. Ah, you thought they really paid that 35000 license per server? Well, yes, unless they agree not to use Linux or MySQL.
  • Re:Pay (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mini me ( 132455 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @02:33PM (#19584129)

    OS X doesn't cost anything extra

    We really have no idea how much OS X adds to the cost of the machine, but I think we can say with absolute certainty that it is more than $0. I'd venture to guess that it's even more than $129.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by edwdig ( 47888 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @02:55PM (#19584413)
    You are still probably paying Microsoft for that box, Microsft may charge by number of units sold with or without the OS, so Dell could get a discount on the OS.

    Microsoft used to do that. That's the reason we all use Windows today instead of one of the other half dozen better choices that came out at the same time as Win3.0 Anyway, Clinton stepped in around 95 or so and got the wonderful agreement out of MS that said "We're not admitting we did anything wrong, but we won't do that ever again."
  • Not What He Wants (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbreaker ( 561297 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @03:20PM (#19584819) Journal
    1) The build the cost of OSX into the price of the machine.
    2) Apple PC's use the same hard drives as Dell, IBM, HP, and home built computers
    3) Businesses that standardize on Windows don't want Apple PC's. They don't want to dual boot user workstations, and they don't want to deal with the extra complexity. They also don't want to pay those prices for the name Apple, like consumers do. The Apple notebooks aren't as overpriced as the Mac Pro, but they aren't an inexpensive option.
    4) Dell's business support is pretty good.
    5) He wants to buy a machine, with a free OS, without the big fuss. A Mac + BootCamp + Ubuntu + unsupported = Not What He Wants.

    Macintoshes aren't always the solution. Get over it.
  • Why dell does this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @05:00PM (#19586405)
    I think the reason dell does this is fairly obvious. Small business sales at dell have different service policies than home sales. For example they get US tech support rather than tech support outsourced to India. They have different on-site repair policies. The computer selection is different too. And of course they probably have greater risks in case of negligence with businesses. So they presumably want to dry run the linux model in the consumer market before investing in the infrastructure to support it in business. e.g. easier to temporarily hire an outsource crew that can do Linux support than to retrain your US staff.

    Now as for why not accept the business credit card on the consumer web site. Well that has nothing to do with this being a linux machine. That's just their policy in general. I'm sure they'd love to make an exception for linux machines, except that the market is so tiny why bother to have policy exceptions. People would exploit them and pretty soon you'd have businesses buying the $399 consumer entry-level dells rather than the business class machines then turning around and getting angry when they get outsourced tech support.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes