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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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  • I can see (Score:4, Interesting)

    by niceone ( 992278 ) * on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:00AM (#19577969) Journal

    I can see why they might want to sell different products in their different "channels", presumably they have different support staff for each one and not all are trained for all products.

    I can't see why they won't accept a business card for an item purchased in the "home / home office" section though.

  • by PowerEdge ( 648673 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:01AM (#19577985)
    Dell segments its business based on how customers are perceived to use their systems. This is why a consumer can't purchase a Latitude notebook, yet Small Business customers can. Support is also divided along these lines for the most part. You can purchase Gold Support "highly recommended" on business machines but not so on the consumer machines. Ubuntu Linux, as far as I can tell, is being offered as a consumer grade operating system at this time.

    I would wager if you talked to the Small Business sales rep again you could still purchase an nSeries system with FreeDOS on it or you can purchase a Precision Workstation with Red Hat Linux. Simply go to
  • by itsjpr ( 16533 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:08AM (#19578129) Homepage
    I was interested in supporting Dell and it's Ubuntu decision. I'm not traditionally an Ubunutu user. I've SuSE/openSuse on my 3 year old Dell laptop since I got it years (didn't have any hardware compatibility issues and auto-detected everything important) and otherwise use CentOS and Debian but thought it would be worth buying one just to ease hardware selection since laptop hardware changes so much.

    I looked at the specs for the Ubuntu laptop. 6 pounds! Holy crap, no way in hell I'm lugging that around. My current Dell laptop is under 3lbs. I brought up the page for Dells smallest laptop and wanted to compare the hardware to their Ubuntu one. I buy under government/higher-ed. Guess mention of Ubuntu as an OS option in that category. Looks like it's only available in the Home section.

    Ho hum, back to the old fashioned way. Checked for wifi support before I bought the littlest one, paid the MS tax, and kept my fingers crossed.

    Dell's Ubuntu option is a nice idea, but restricting it to a single Laptop isn't all that engaging.
  • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:08AM (#19578135) Homepage
    I had the same experience with HP a couple of years back when it decided to offer PCs with Mandrake. They were not available through the business channel and that was it.
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ronadams ( 987516 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:12AM (#19578195) Homepage
    Except that I don't want to pay for OS X if I'm just going to use it for a FOSS OS... another user did point out, quite correctly as I found, that you could just purchase a Dell with FreeDOS for businesses... why, why, why.
  • Re:Probably Red-Tape (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sYkSh0n3 ( 722238 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:15AM (#19578239) Journal
    My guess is this probably has a lot to do with tech support. They outsource their support to the lowest bidders, and the lowest bidder then runs their support through a call center in India or some little podunk town in the states. These people then hire anybody able to speak into a headset. Some don't know anything about a computer other than how to play solitaire, others can barely turn one on. Teaching a whole new operating system to them would take years, IF it could be done at all. That's why they dropped the hardware support, and why they can't sell them to businesses. They know they have no way of offering reliable support for them, and they dont want to piss off their business customers with horrible tech support and risk getting a lawsuit against them for lost revenue.

    I loath Microsoft, but I understand where Dell is coming from with their lack of support for Ubuntu, it's just not financially viable to train agents to support it. They have to protect the stockholders first and customers come second. I disapprove of this system, but that's a rant for another thread. I see a day in the distant future where Dell will slowly begin expanding it's Ubuntu selection and support. But i think it will be a long long time, and people complaining about how poorly they are doing now is only going to discourage their effort.
  • Re:Why go with Dell? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:17AM (#19578287)
    No, consumers in general are dumb. If they weren't, they would be customers.

    Thus I feel vaguely insulted every time someone calls me a consumer.
  • Re:Probably Red-Tape (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kainaw ( 676073 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:43AM (#19578745) Homepage Journal
    Being in a company that has a license so that every computer/server I purchase must be purchased from Dell, I now know that Dell is very anti-Linux in the workplace. I had one server start blowing white smoke out the back just before it burned up and died. I called Dell to try and get it fixed under warranty. They asked for some Windows code. I told them I had RedHat on it. They said that since I put a non-Windows OS on it, I voided the warranty. Later, I had a desktop PC lose a harddrive. I called to see if I could get a replacement drive under warranty. They told me I had to try to run some Windows diagnostic program. I explained that the drive is dead - so I can't run anything - and it was running Fedora anyway. Oops. Since it didn't have Windows, it isn't covered under warranty. Again, I had another desktop with a broken CD tray straight out of the box. I called to complain. This time, I didn't even put Linux on it because I couldn't - the CD tray wouldn't open enough to get the Linux CD in there. They looked at my history and said that they don't warranty my computers because I have a history of installing unsupported operating systems on them.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cheerio Boy ( 82178 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:55AM (#19578957) Homepage Journal
    Here's two FOSS laptop and system choices right off the top of my head:

    Custom Linux laptops.

    Linux servers and clusters.

    Dell's choice to not sell to businesses should give these guys a fair boost in sales.
  • Re:Probably Red-Tape (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kainaw ( 676073 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:03AM (#19579117) Homepage Journal
    Then please, PLEASE, have your Dell people call my dell people at (800) 822-8965 and tell them to start honoring our warranties.
  • by pyite69 ( 463042 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:20AM (#19579365)
    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. Total speculation on my part, but there must have been some seriously tough negotiating at the highest levels of management in both MS and Dell to make this happen.

    I am pretty impressed with Dell for doing this - it is worth it to live with a home PC even though the support sucks and it is harder to purchase.
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbrod ( 19122 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:33AM (#19579611) Homepage Journal
    Even with the news of Dell having Ubuntu systems (including laptops) I still went with System76 for reason exactly like this story. I have been happy with their service and support and I am glad I bought my laptop from them.

    The keyboard on the laptop (Pangolin Value) is not as good as my IBM work laptop, but not bad. The display is great though, which is what I care about most.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ( 760528 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:35AM (#19579667)
    Hmm... I find it hard to understand. I bought my laptop from Dell thru work via dell's site and the default was "no os", and that was only about 4 months ago now i think?

    Do they not allow that anymore?
  • Re:So... (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:48AM (#19579923)
    I just bought a mac mini, and installed Ubuntu on it. Everything worked perfectly, including the wireless. Nice, quiet, compact machine.
  • by ericrost ( 1049312 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:56AM (#19580061) Homepage Journal
    HP is no better. HP sells HP-UX (thus making linux a threat to them), and goes out of their way to NOT offer support to their linux customers in the desktop space. They have denied (until it got publicity) hardware warranty claims on their hardware because it runs linux, and (since I own an HP I know) their new "license" for your hardware claims that you only have the right to use the hardware if you use the preinstalled Vista. I can post the details (would make a good journal entry *note to self*).

    Dell is far preferable to HP now that Michael Dell is back at the helm. Remember the HP board pretexting and spying on HP senior management/other board members? Mr. Dell (speculation here) is biding his time, seeing where the hell Dell sits, and slowly trying to steer the ship back from the direction they've been headed.
  • by Alpha830RulZ ( 939527 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:57AM (#19580085)
    I am right now trying to get two desktops from Dell, for a training program next week. I ordered them last week, and paid for overnight shipping. When they didn't arrive as anticipated, I looked up the status, and found that they were to ship -next- wednesday, the last day of the training. Hm-m-m-m.
    When I called the nice lady in India, she informed me that "Overnight shipping sijmply means that, when we ship the computer, it arrices the next day." Oh, really? It was beyond her understanding that the reason that people pay for overnight shipping is that they are hoping to receive the good promptly, and that perhaps customers might not understand the value proposition for overnight shipping taking place two weeks in the future.

    I used to be a big fan of Dell.
  • Re:So... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bonus_Eruptus ( 991451 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:10AM (#19580293) Homepage

    Laboratory Computers (Austin, Las Vegas, and Evansville, IN, but they ship anywhere) is where I bought my desktop, and they give the option of Linux, Windows, or no OS. []

    PowerNotebooks offers the same machines as Alienware, just without the fancy paint, and a lot cheaper, also with either Linux, Windows, or no OS. []

  • ...or rather... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by C10H14N2 ( 640033 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:11AM (#19580307)
    The quality of support they provide in the business division assumes a level of competence on the customer end that is not safe to assume with Linux, which could cause them to lose their shirts as well-meaning newbies stumble through transitioning hand-held and paid for by Dell.

    Ubuntu is pretty straight-forward and I've been using various flavors of Linux for a decade, but if I had a support line to call the first few days I was trying it out for the first time, I would have burned through the price of a cheap laptop in no time trying to get a few of my odder doo-dads to connect. I mean, honestly, when was the last time their support department had to tell a Windows customer "please apply these five patches to your kernel source and recompile?"
  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:41AM (#19580873) Homepage Journal

    How do you know one of the many other *nix machines doesn't have a bespoke application that uses Foo SSH's headers?

    The Solaris-using application is a standalone one, it does not converse with other servers (most of them — AIX). There are no "ssh headers" either and no custom program relies on libssh. And lastly, if this were their reason, they should've said so. But they did not — these two guys' perception was, that: a) OpenSSH is GPLed; b) GPL means "no commercial use".

    Both a) and b) are purely false — no "ifs" nor "buts" about it. But that is still the perception...

    They obviously have a problem though, as slolaris 10 SSH default has slipped under their radar and should be brought into line.

    No, if it comes from Sun (a vendor), it is Ok. No problem...

  • Re:So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:45AM (#19580959) Homepage

    Trick question for you. How much is a license of OS X?
    No, you clearly don't understand. You can't buy Mac OS separately; as I already said, "it's probably more accurate to say that the hardware and OS are included in the price".

    You want to know why it's a trick question? Because you can't buy a license of OS X.
    Oh, I get it! You *did* understand, you were just trying to score smartass points.

    Despite the fact that my previous post revolved around the fact that you couldn't buy Mac OS X separately from the hardware!!

    You can buy upgrades but you cannot buy a license of OS X to install on your Dell box.
    Well, duh. That's precisely why (and I quote myself again) "the reason people buy [Mac hardware] is so it can run the Mac OS".

    Go ahead and look around on the web for a place that you can get a license of OS X to install on non-Apple hardware.
    No, no.... I already told you in the previous post that this wasn't possible.

    I'll wait here for you.
    You really don't get this, do you?
  • by ShinmaWa ( 449201 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @12:18PM (#19581655)
    The article is misleading. Dell will sell businesses workstations and even servers with Linux on it, but not Ubuntu Linux. If you go to, you can see that all the Linux-based business hardware is, in fact, RedHat.

    It is quite obvious that Dell has a contractual agreement with RedHat that the only Linux that Dell will sell to business customers is RedHat, probably in exchange for RedHat kicking in support for those systems. They legally could NOT sell Ubuntu to this guy as a business, because it would have been a breach of contract with RedHat.

    Don't want to pay the Microsoft tax and support Dell in its efforts to support Linux? Great! Buy a RedHat-based Linux workstation instead, then do what you want with it.
  • Re:System76 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Emperor Cezar ( 106515 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @12:50PM (#19582291) Journal
    They compete on service. Scale is a major factor, but dell skimps on the service, not the parts.
  • by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @01:25PM (#19582949) Homepage
    >Due to an extremely silly incident involving a support contract a server running an Oracle instance, I've avoided DeLL for years

    Did they insist on you shutting down a production server to run their stupid diagnostics tool when you called in a bad disk?

    They did this to us a few years ago. They kept on refusing to send a replacement disk, insisting on *proof* that the disk was indeed bad. The diagnostics software they wanted us to use required us to shut down the server, which would have been extremely disruptive. Eventually we just said forget it, called back, and got a different rep who eventually finally caved and sent us the disk.

    Granted, this was years ago, and their service has since improved, but that was a pretty brain-dead policy to have even back then.

  • by Mongoose ( 8480 ) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @02:16PM (#19583873) Homepage

    For example: []
  • Re:System76 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HeronBlademaster ( 1079477 ) <> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @04:06PM (#19585439) Homepage
    I hear *tons* of horror stories about Dell's customer service... My short experience was far from a horror story.

    I ordered my laptop without checking the screen resolution (a big no-no, I know, but it just didn't occur to me). So when I got it, I was surprised to find that my max resolution was 1280x960.

    I called Dell's customer service to ask if I could return it and purchase a laptop with a higher screen resolution (1680x1050, the highest they offer on a 15" laptop). Obviously, I was expecting to pay the difference in price, or get the first purchase refunded and then pay the second purchase price.

    The lady I spoke with said she'd see what she could do and call me back.

    She called the next morning saying she arranged an unlike exchange - Not only did she get the laptop exchanged for free (So I got a $100 upgrade for free), I was able to keep the first laptop until I recieved the second one so I didn't have to go a week or so without a computer.

    So... Not *all* Dell Customer Service stories are horror.

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