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Microsoft vs. Dell: war or wile?

LincLinc BardDetroit, MI Icrontian
edited Mar 2007 in Science & Tech
On February 16, Dell launched IdeaStorm, a Digg-like site for promoting new ideas for the PC company. Outpacing the second-place idea by almost 100% in vote-getting, "Pre-Installed Linux | Ubuntu | Fedora | OpenSUSE | Multi-Boot" quickly surfaced to the top (followed by "Stripped down, fast Linux Box" in third and "No OS Preloaded" in fifth).

On February 23, Dell announced Linux systems for sale on its site. While they are definitely there, we defy you to find them from Dell's homepage. Though listed as being under "Small Business" (when you link there directly from the PR), clicking on Desktops or Notebooks from the Small Business page only gives you systems "Available with Windows Vista or Windows XP". A search for "Linux" while in the Home & Home Business part of the site turns up printers instead.

Dell is non-committal about which Linux distro is will provide, saying it doesn't want to alienate any group of Linux aficionados. Seemingly contradictory to this statement, the Precision line products are currently all locked into RedHat, while the Notebooks and Optiplexes are all locked into FreeDOS.

For images, view on front page

Information Week notes (in the above link) that Dell has sought "certification of its Optiplex desktops, Latitude notebooks, and Precision workstations for Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10." It is similarly interesting to note that Novell is the company with which Microsoft has recently formed cozy relations.

What does this all mean? Giving Dell the benefit of the doubt, it looks like they are genuinely taking steps to provide greater options to the consumer when it comes to operating systems. However, the position has not gone unnoticed by Microsoft, in which e-mails were circulating as early as 2002 suggesting the company "whack" Dell for its interest in open source. Is the Novell move an act of appeasement towards Redmond, or simply another distro that Dell is looking into? Time will tell.

Comments

  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Feb 2007
    I hope the Dell-Linux deal works. Something tells me though, that Dell won't sell enough volume to make it worth their while. Hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so. So, as far as the general public goes, who would buy a Dell with Linux pre-loaded:

    1) current Linux users who want a new computer?
    2) ordinary computer users who want to save $75 (probably the factory markup for OEM Windows)?
    3) someone who needs a new computer and just happens to have a desire to go Linux?

    Who is the market here? I thought Linux users were do-it-yourself kind of guys, not rushing out to buy new computers off the shelf. (I understand that business arena is different. Linux-Dell is nothing new for business machines.)

    So what does Michael Dell know that we don't? After all, he made overtures for years to AMD without doing anything at all. Is it just empty words again come from a mass production outfit wanting a positive news byte?

    Dell had significant interest in preloaded Linux machines? Hmm, wonder if lots of Linux enthusiasts pummeled the IdeaStorm site, making it look like a greater demand than it actually was.

    Please don't misunderstand. I'm not making a statement for or against either Windows or Linux. I just find it hard to believe there's much of a demand for preloaded Linux. It seems I've much more often heard desires for an option to buy PCs without ANYTHING at all installed. But then, most of my computer discussions are with savvy folks here, and not with general users.
  • QCHQCH Ancient Guru Chicago Area - USA Icrontian
    edited Feb 2007
    We have been fighting for a good PC vendor that certifies its products for Linux. We'd love to have the same shop handle our Windows PCs and Linux PCs. Our division alone has over 600 Windows PCs and 400 Linux PCs. That's a start....
  • drasnordrasnor Starship Operator Hawthorne, CA Icrontian
    edited Feb 2007
    Linux users can be anyone. I know some Linux users that know nothing about computers and don't have root on their boxes (probably a good thing). Lots of people at school use Linux on the school's big X server for various classes and a good deal of the ones I know don't really know much about any OS. I roll my own.

    -drasnor :fold:
  • nonstop301nonstop301 51° 27' 24.87" N // 0° 11' 38.91" W Member
    edited Mar 2007
    I think it's a good sign that Dell is considering Linux but I don't think it's a direction that Dell wants to choose solely for the purpose of satisfying its customers. It's more of an indication of the improvements in the Linux platform as an increasing number of computer manufacturers now choose to offer machines that carry the Linux operating system.

    Dell probably just wants to stay in line with manufacturers like HP and IBM that haven't suffered setbacks by offering computers with Linux for business or domestic environments, and also gives them the opportunity to present a better marketing concept by providing alternative solutions other companies haven't yet embraced.

    It might not take that long to see computers from the same manufacturer but with different operating systems appearing side by side in stores. It's the sort of thing would probably make the same revolutionary headlines as Windows 95 did when it was launched :)
  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    Is there any beige box (consumer, off-the-shelf) manufacturer that offers Linux for non-business sales? What company? Small independents don't count.

    If the manufacturer doesn't have volume sales, it seems like support would be prohibitively expensive, unless the consumers are given firm disclaimers that there is no software support. In other words, the economy of scale for staffing a Linux support unit would be very high unless sales volume is large enough to justify it. Also, how are you going to sell pre-loaded Linux to PC Linux users? From what I've heard, they are very, very picky (and that's just fine) and pride themselves in custom, efficient installations (just like we hardware nuts pride ourselves on our one-of-a-kind homebuilt computers). On top of that, out of every 100 Linux (home PC) users, there's what, 15-20 different Linux distributions in use? All this is good for variety and eventual competition to Microsoft and Apple, but how can a manufacturer spit out Linux boxes when there's precious little standardization withing the Linux PC community?

    Now what about that computer company that was selling "Lindows" boxes at Wal-Mart. Did that get anywhere?
  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    Dell was just spouting corporate PR PR babble...or intentionally misleading? Looks like Dell was just testing the waters with a community they knew couldn't hurt them?


    I think my hunch was right. Dell now clarifies what they implied in IdeaStorm. It would seem Dell's talk of consumer-ready, Linux-loaded PCs meant about as much as their ambiguous AMD statements of three years ago - someday, maybe someday, but in the meantime, we'll just say warm and fuzzy meaningless twaddle.
    the note was just about certifying the hardware for being ready to work with Novell SUSE Linux, not an announcement that the computers would be loaded and sold with the operating system in the near future
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    Wow, to me, a HUGE flag that they're beholden to MS on this. I mean, of ALL the distros, they move to certify with the one MS is in bed with? C'mon. On top of that, they haven't even committed to it. Talk about "Oh please Mr. Microsoft, don't take away our illegal incentives".
  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    No, I disagree. There is NO big demand for pre-installed Linux boxes. Sure, you can get a few thousand users to say, "Yes, I'd buy it." But when it came time for ordering, they would not. There is no distribution of Linux out yet, around which the independent-type Linux users could rally. Being supportive and opening your wallet are two very different things. 1000 Linux users (home users) will want 20 different distributions configured ('compiled') 300 different ways. You just cannot mass produce that way and stay profitable. The Linux corporate boxes, at least from Dell, are all designed and certified around mainly one distribution - Novell SUSE Linux, or so it is reported. If you had thousands of Linux users all clamoring for a single distribution and willing to buy a Dell (or HP, or whatever) with run-of-the-mill OEM hardware, then I believe, a manufacturer would rise to the occasion. The only computers that large makers produce for the a niche market are the ultra-expensive gaming machines, like the Dell ...what is it, "XPS?" In such a case (horribly overpriced systems), the manufacturer can indeed make a profit. Volume is everything to those guys. It's volume, or die.

    I will say this though - the fact that Dell is even talking about it, even though misleading, is proof to me that Linux is maturing and closer to becoming viable for the mainstream.

    As it stands now, Dell could probably make a whole lot more sales with 'niche' machines by selling computers without an OS at all rather than one with Linux. An owner of a machine with a blank hard drive can always download the Linux variety of his wish, for FREE.

    If I wanted a Linux box right now, I'd just wipe the hard drive on one of my Folding boxes, or dual boot one of my machines. Why in heck would I want to buy a computer with Linux pre-installed. Maybe I wouldn't like that distribution, maybe I'd want Ubunto, Kubunto, Red Hat, or one of the other hundreds of distros. I just download it for free. Look, I know I'm beating this to death, but the ONLY unity the desktop Linux crowd has is that they want an open source OS to compete with Microsoft. Heck yeah, I like that idea too! If there were a Linux distro available that the majority of the "Linux community" would be happy with, and that could be installed easily on factory machines that change specifications every three months, Dell would be selling it right now.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    HP sells red hat certified and fully support systems:
    Hey hey, that's progress, but it's still marketed at small and medium business. Now, find me a sub-$1000 system marketed at the 'masses.' The volume demand is just not there to get the prices down to consumer levels.
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    Leonardo wrote:
    There is no distribution of Linux out yet, around which the independent-type Linux users could rally.
    Ubuntu. OK, sure, it's not as hardcore as some would like... but I think it's a pretty clear front-runner for Joe Shmoe desktop Linux user.
    Leonardo wrote:
    The Linux corporate boxes, at least from Dell, are all designed and certified around mainly one distribution - Novell SUSE Linux, or so it is reported.
    I don't think that's true. From what I saw on their homepage, they sell FreeDOS and Redhat for businesses. I didn't see Novell anywhere right now.

    If Dell said "We're looking at Ubuntu" I'd go "Woohoo! Dell's seriously looking at Linux!". But, they're saying "We're looking at Novell", which makes be go "UMMM... oh HELLO newest buddy of MS that the Linux community is accusing of treason... SURE DELL... Linux, riiiiight..."
  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    "We're looking at Novell", which makes be go "UMMM... oh HELLO newest buddy of MS that the Linux community is accusing of treason...
    OK, you've got me on that one! :cool:

    I just don't think there's any collusion with Microsoft on this. I really believe that if Dell thought there were profit to be made with desktop Linux for the masses, or even a sub-mass 'community,' they'd jump at the chance. You know they'd just love take back the No. 1 manufacturer status from HP. I think losing that hurt them very badly.

    I think we can both agree though, that the day for common Linux on the desktop is definitely getting closer. One year, two, three?

    Whatever did happen to "Lindows." I know they had to change their name, but did that line of PCs have any staying power?
  • OrianeOriane Turn around.
    edited Mar 2007
    I think we may be more ready for machines without an OS. With the waters muddied by Vista, perhaps vendors may make the OS and their various flavors and editions optional or selectable with “none” being an option with a commensurate discount. I know I don’t want a machine with Vista just yet and if it saves me $X00 off the price of the machine, it may be tempting … especially if I’m replacing one with retail XP Pro on it. Some places do this- even with laptops.

    People could then put Linux or whatever they want on their machine and the PC maker might only have to support legitimate hardware issues.

    Just a thought.
  • godzilla525godzilla525 Western Pennsylvania Member
    edited Mar 2007
    The problem with getting a computer without an OS is convincing someone at the other end of the tech support line that you have a defective piece of hardware rather than being too stupid to install an OS. It's going to happen, and more and more knowledgeable people are being driven away from tech support since it's like being pecked to death by a flock of ducks. This is why Dell et al have problems; also too much scripting and not enough thinking.

    That said, supporting a bunch of operating systems when a lot of users may not know specifically what they have and describe problems in the most vague terms imaginable, is going to be really painful.

    There are also still companies out there that do not have drivers for Linux, further complicating the OEM hardware selection process. Then there's the issue with adding peripherals later. My LaserJet has PostScript support, so I know it'll work with GhostScript. The ScanJet, no. MS and to a lesser extent Apple more or less have a monopoly with regards to supporting peripherals, and many hardware manufacturers are less than forthcoming with drivers or even basic assistance for third-party efforts to develop drivers.

    At least my digital camera and mp3 player show up as basic USB Mass Storage. From what I gather iPods can't do too much without iTunes. (This is one of the main things that scare me away from iPods... well that and the non-user-replaceable battery.)
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    The hardware issue is why they're seeking to "certify" all their hardware on the Novell platform first. Michael Dell also did say that one of the biggest stumbling blocks is making sure they can provide the support needed.
    too much scripting and not enough thinking.
    If they could think they'd have to pay them better :crazy:
  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    HOW MUCH IS the Windows tax? How much is the Vista tax? ...with a little sleuthing, you can find it out...Red Hat offerings are notably cheaper than MS products. Now, you might say "well duh!" but this is not the free downloaded version, it is a fully-supported, packaged copy with media...Most of the time, companies make it hard to compare directly by changing hardware enough to stop direct matching, but not here...This sets the Vole tax at $59 over Red Hat....
    The Inquirer estimates the cost of pre-installed Windows as compared to Red Hat Linux.
  • OrianeOriane Turn around.
    edited Mar 2007
    While I can’t help how Dell models their business, it doesn’t mean that an optional OS can’t be done and put into a business model.

    I just kind of like the idea of an optional OS and think that it is both doable and reasonable.

    Hardware generally has diagnostics and many vendors will supply them with your retail system or component. This website is proof that people can be walked through it. Then many places (like the above) will offer Windows and Linux assistance that can help with installs, etc. I really don’t think it’s an issue of whether they can.

    Moreover and honestly- would you rather have Microsoft continue to have vendors basically leave you with no option but … Microsoft? Go to Best Buy- mine won’t even give you the option of XP anymore (let alone Linux)- lotsa la Vista only, baby.

    I think I’m just getting to the point that being able to choose an OS (or no OS) when I buy a system is sort of reminiscent of the right to vote.

    And I’m just a little against entrusting MS with a lot of the ballot boxes.
  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    Moreover and honestly- would you rather have Microsoft continue to have vendors basically leave you with no option but … Microsoft? Go to Best Buy- mine won’t even give you the option of XP anymore (let alone Linux)- lotsa la Vista only, baby.

    I think I’m just getting to the point that being able to choose an OS (or no OS) when I buy a system is sort of reminiscent of the right to vote.

    And I’m just a little against entrusting MS with a lot of the ballot boxes.
    In sentiment, I'm with you. The reality though, is that not one major manufacturer thinks it's a good business decision for Linux on the consumer desktop, pre-loaded at the factory. If any of them thought there was money to be made, it would already be available. I understand, I wouldn't risk my business on it either. The demand is just not there yet for the high volume, low margin beige-box makers. The minute there is a real demand, one of the big brands will jump on it.

    Again, would someone please tell me what happened to the Lindows-Linspire pre-loaded machines that Walmart sold? I don't think they are too be found anymore. Demand? Guess not.

    And, you do have a choice. Mac. Maybe not exactly what you wanted, but it is indeed a proven, trusted alternative. You could also buy a workstation with Novell SUSE Linux or Red Hat's, pre-loaded and factory certified for the hardware.
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    Leonardo wrote:
    Again, would someone please tell me what happened to the Lindows-Linspire pre-loaded machines that Walmart sold?
    I don't mean to avoid the question, I simply don't know - I was never aware of their sale in the first place. :o

    I guess it boils down to this: My mom's friend was buying a Dell just last week. Even if 5 flavors of Linux were available, I still would've told her to get Windows. I hear Ubuntu "is so easy even my mom uses it!" but I want to test that theory myself before I go telling people to hop on the Linux train without a tech background.
  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    Oh, sorry, I was not implying that you were holding information away from me. Yes, Wal-Mart did carry a branded computer - not a major manufacturer, some E-machines wannabe label. It was supposed to be revolutionary in that it was ultra low cost and contained a Linux derivative ("Lindows") that most buyers would supposedly adapt to easily. Apparently, it actually was a decent OS that Windows users migrated to easily. Internet searches reveal sort of a black hole for information post 2003/2004. Maybe I haven't searched well enough. Windows sued Lindows (probably justified, I think) and Lindows subsequently changed their name to "Linspire." I don't even know if the OS is still available. If I'm not correct, it was a controversial OS from the standpoint of many Linux developers because it contained a lot proprietary add-ons. Sorry I can't be more descriptive. Hope I'm not too far off facts on this. :(
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    Leonardo wrote:
    Windows sued Lindows (probably justified, I think) and Lindows subsequently changed their name to "Linspire." I don't even know if the OS is still available.
    Yeah, they actually lost that suit. MS then bought the Lindows name from them for $24 million. It's still available I think, but Ubuntu is the distro getting all the attention now for Joe Consumer.
  • nonstop301nonstop301 51° 27' 24.87" N // 0° 11' 38.91" W Member
    edited Mar 2007
    Ubuntu is not easy at all for someone who has never touched Linux before.

    It is appears easier for those who have battled with Linux in the past :)

    Linux = Terminal (command prompt)

    If you aren't prepared to learn a bunch of useful console commands you will not get very far at all with Linux. Once everything is configured correctly and you start using it, you discover the more stable and in some cases faster performance than Windows.
  • drasnordrasnor Starship Operator Hawthorne, CA Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    Leo: you're mostly right though now Linspire is gone; they charged for their OS so it never really caught on with the existing Linux user base. Part of that fee I think went to pay for Cedega licenses so that Windows games would work (somewhat).
    nonstop31: I agree with your part about the terminal, but I think all the difficulty with Ubuntu lies with installing it and configuring it. I someone handed you a fully-configured PC with it already installed the average guy would be able to hit the ground running as long as some bare documentation for the bundled software was provided. A whole lot of common Linux software is mature and intuitive for Windows users e.g. OpenOffice, gaim, Audacious, Firefox, Thunderbird, totem. The problem is just getting them used to it since it isn't Windows.

    -drasnor :fold:
  • LeonardoLeonardo Wake up and smell the glaciers Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited Mar 2007
    If you aren't prepared to learn a bunch of useful console commands you will not get very far at all with Linux.
    If for no other reason, Linux will NEVER be a mainstream success as long as command line functions are the main. Computing evolved away from that well over a decade ago at consumer and business end user levels. It won't go back to that any more than our cars will again have hand cranks and solid tires. My first computing was everyday use of Word Perfect 1.X - command line word processing. I remember thinking at the time, "Boy, it'll be nice someday when the technology develops and we don't need to write sentences and phrases to accomplish simple things."

    I am still optimistic that Linux will eventually occupy a significant share of the general public's OS choice. Wanna bet it will be a pay-for distribution?
  • nonstop301nonstop301 51° 27' 24.87" N // 0° 11' 38.91" W Member
    edited Mar 2007
    Let me clarify a little with respect to the linux command prompt (Terminal). It is something that is used in conjunction with the windowed environment and I didn't mean that to do something with Linux you must only use the Terminal :)

    Linux has a very powerful graphical X server to make everything more user friendly but if you run into problems with certain software or linux settings, the fastest and most efficient way to solve them is using the command line.

    Whichever direction linux follows, there is no doubt it is attracting more and more attention. I don't think it will ever threat the massive Windows market but it's there as an alternative for those willing to give it a try. We shouldn't forget that Windows is moving forward as well so it isn't a case of a stagnant Windows platform with all the progress happening in the Linux environment
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