A few weeks back Dell invited ideas from the world at large about what it should put on sale – in other words, what did the so-called ‘community’ want? It turned out that the ‘community’ wanted PCs installed with GNU/Linux. But the company has done nothing afterwards. Now, we have a staunch defence of Dell’s position by Mark Shuttleworth, the proprietor of Canonical which owns the Ubuntu project.
Dell, Linux, and Mark Shuttleworth
About The Author
Follow me on Twitter @thomholwerda
2007-03-20 8:41 pmWorknMan
Dell can pre-load many different versions of Vista, then they could also offer Linux and no OS options.
Except that one version of Vista is pretty much the same as any other version, plus or minus a few features. If Dell were to pick one flavor of Linux over another, that would start a pissing contest, the likes of which none of us have ever seen before, and they’d end up pissing off about 75% of the Linux community who’s distro didn’t get picked.
If they let the consumer choose between 8 different flavors, then they have the burden of supporting them all. This is a no win situation.
But I do think they should just sell at least one of their models with no OS installed. Then the end user can install whatever flavor of Linux they want and don’t have to pay the Windows tax.
As for hardware, if Linux is so badass at hardware detection, as many pundets claim it has better hardware support than Windows, then you should be able to install it on almost anything. I’ve installed it on my 4yo Dell, and it works flawlessly.
2007-03-20 8:54 pmjayson.knight
“But I do think they should just sell at least one of their models with no OS installed. Then the end user can install whatever flavor of Linux they want and don’t have to pay the Windows tax. ”
It’s funny you should mention the MS tax: The linux machines listed in the link from the next commentor (http://www.dell.com/content/products/features.aspx/nseries?c=us&cs=…) cost almost the same as their XP loaded counterparts.
2007-03-20 10:52 pmkaiwai
It’s funny you should mention the MS tax: The linux machines listed in the link from the next commentor (http://www.dell.com/content/products/features.aspx/nseries?c=us&…..) cost almost the same as their XP loaded counterparts.
Thats because a good portion of the sale in Windows land is subsidised by crap being preloaded onto machines on the machines as Symantec pay Dell to load on the ’60 days free trial’, which reduces the cost; if there wasn’t there setup there, the Windows machine would cost more.
With that being said, I don’t want to see Linux being infected with shovelware from half-baked, half-assed vendors like Symantec, who seemed to have honed in on the art of turning a top of the line PC into a slow slug just by the inclusion of a few applications on a computer.
2007-03-21 11:27 amanda_skoa
. If Dell were to pick one flavor of Linux over another, that would start a pissing contest, the likes of which none of us have ever seen before, and they’d end up pissing off about 75% of the Linux community who’s distro didn’t get picked.
I have said this before: I consider this a convenient excuse.
Even the “wrong” Linux distribution will be better than any Windows version if one’s goal is to use a computer with Linux, since the “wrong” Linux can be used as a show case for all hardware/config related things, while a Windows installation will at most just let you know how the built-in devices are named.
2007-03-21 11:31 ambackdoc
I pretty much agree with you. But, if they would just certify some of their products as “Linux Ready” for a specific distribution, then the other distributions would no doubt be able to support it, too.
As for the “badass hardware detection”, I think it is better than Window’s. I know it is. But, there are some unfortunate cases where even if Linux recognizes the hardware, it still doesn’t know how the hardware works internally and thus can’t work with it (ie. some winmodems, broadcom wireless).
2007-03-20 8:45 pmstare
If Dell can pre-load many different versions of Vista, then they could also offer Linux and no OS options.
It does not take just a couple of weeks to test and verify that systems work with a specific Linux distribution.
Dell already ship systems with Linux installed on Servers and on Precision Workstation systems. (This has been so for some years now…)
I hope that by the end of this year you can atleast buy a system with a RedHat or SuSE installed on Optiplex and Latitude systems as well. And I do not think that this is unlikely to be the case. But then again it is “I hope…”
What Dell has done so far:
– Made more systems available as n-Series, these are systems shipped with FreeDOS bootable media instead of an installed OS.
– A second poll has been created to get more detailed information about what linux distributions, support etc. customers want. Read more here: http://direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2007/03/13/7985.aspx
A side note:
HP has also communicated that they have large customers asking for Linux on HP desktop/notebook systems. (I read this in a blog during the last week or so…)
Be patient people! The big OEM vendors is getting closer to shipping linux systems every day.
IMO it is good that they take their time, investigate and do proper testing. Nothing sucks more than buying something that is supposed to work, that don’t work…
My 2 cents….
Reading the article, there are only comments by Sam Varghese which claim to be citing the person in the title. Given the style of the article, one would expect a link to an actual interview. Perhaps there was none.
2007-03-21 9:51 ambutters
Mark Shuttleworth’s first assertion was that the sky is blue. Where’s the proof? If he’s going to go around making wild accusations, he should at least back them up. Me and my buddies drove around searching for 8-year-old CDROM drives this one time, and the sky was mostly black, with little white specks. Clearly my experience proves that Mark doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and therefore his whole argument is flawed.
His second baseless claim was that bloggers like to debate the statements of respected industry leaders by identifying any assumptions made and demanding proof. Apparently know-nothing hacks use this device as a means of promoting their own totally indefensible theories. This is total garbage, because as my article has been posted to an IT-related website, my argument carries as much (or more) merit than that of the CEO of a major Linux vendor. Mark, if you can’t prove that pre-installed Linux is a bad idea, then it is obviously a great idea. That’s logic 101.
Hey, I don’t think Mark is necessarily right on this one, but I know better than to claim he’s full of crap. Who knows why he’s taking this position. It could very fundamental, for example that he thinks today’s Linux desktop market is still composed primarily of early-adopters and enthusiasts who would prefer a naked PC. Or maybe it’s merely business, for example that he think OEMs like Dell are likely to pass on Ubuntu in favor of Red Hat or Novell if they were to pre-install Linux.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Mark Shuttleworth is a shark. If sharks stop moving, they die. If Mark doesn’t think that OEMs should be installing Linux on hundreds of thousands of PCs, he probably has a damn good reason for taking this position. The most aggressive mind in Linux desktop marketing has just declared that plowing ahead with mass market Linux PCs is not a good idea, and his public reasoning is not extremely convincing. He must have something up his sleeves.
… all this talk about pre-loaded Linux is a little off the mark?
IMHO what everyone wants is a very small thing: get Dell to build systems that can be easily turned into functioning Linux machines with as little pain as possible, i.e. provide the source of the drivers.
Given the buying clout of Dell, it would be very easy to get its motherboard supplier to select the components that provide this feature.
Then, if Dell wants to pre-load Linux, even better. But why go for the big ultimate goal (which is difficult as it would interfere with the Windows OEM contracts) rather than a small important step in the right direction?
2007-03-20 8:32 pmSReilly
I agree. If hardware has good support from say kernel 2.6.14, any distribution with either the same or latter 2.6 kernel will be able to support said hardware. Bingo, you have a machine ready for installation with the distribution of your choice.
Of course, choosing which software to install is another matter and in some situations, certain packages are more suitable than others but all in all, you have your Linux ready desktop/laptop without having to read through supported hardware lists.
I seriously think that as a first step, that would already rock.
2007-03-22 7:13 pmCutterman
When Microsoft got word of this they called up Michael Dell and pointed out that if he went ahead his Windows OEM discount would disappear.
They “reasoned” with him like Don Corleone…and Dell decided he did not want to sleep with the fishes!
MS will never permit a major like Dell to offer Linux in a big way, that would be the beginning of the end – they’d rather buy the company or destroy it.
Don’t mistake their determination.
“Some of his assertions as to why it is difficult to buy a PC with GNU/Linux installed (and not pre-installed which would mean installed before being installed, a ludicrous suggestion and as gross an abuse of the English language as I have ever seen)”
Isn’t it ‘pre’ as in ‘before offering for a sale’ ?
Edited 2007-03-20 20:15
2007-03-21 12:57 amHappyGod
This means before installation, as in: “I configured the BIOS pre-installation.”
I don’t care what Linux OS is to be chossen. I’d prefer none. But I dream about PCs with [Ready for Linux] sticker attached. I mean, no fussing about drivers or compatibility out of the box.
2007-03-20 9:49 pmcollinm
already true in argentina
check the picture
… assemble their own PCs these days?
I can be a lot more fun, and you get exactly the hardware you want. Not pseudo-exactly, or semi-exactly, such as is the case with Dell’s offerings.
I’ve seen at least 5 articles that their authors have misleadingly assumed the numbers next to the propositions on Dell Idea Storm site inidcate the number of people voted. Wrong! These are _points_, NOT votes! Each vote is +10 point and the longer the idea is displayed and the higher its position, it gains some extra points! Someone should tell all these people who consider themeself profesional specialists and write these freelance articles that they are completely wrong! And it means Linux for Dell idea got about 10.000 votes, not 100.000! For me, it makes a HUGE difference and if it really was 100.000 I am sure Dell wouldn’t hestitate as it does now.
Edited 2007-03-20 22:30
All of the points he credits Shuttleworth with were quite valid. I don’t think I saw a single decent argument from this idiot to rebuke them.
I could do a better job of countering Shuttleworth’s points and I agree with him.
This was a shell article aimed at getting page hits. If the article was insightful and intuitive it wouldn’t be against the grain enough to get the number of page hits you are after.
When I want to read Slashdot, I go to Slashdot.
The article summary was misleading (re: Shuttleworth position, comments, quotes), and the author has a worse command of the English language than I had in 7th grade.
Come on, quality *does* matter. If Dell executive was to read this, would they even pass it along? I wouldn’t.
I don’t want Linux pre-installed or Windows pre-installed; what I want is for OEM companies to force their hardware vendors to open up their hardware as to allow any operating system vendor to write drivers or risk losing their contract.
Personally, I’d like to see more than just Linux offered; what about PC-BSD for instance, Solaris looking even more promising after having a look at the latest Solaris Express.
I’d sooner be in a world where there is 4 major operating systems, and software vendors are forced to create quality, operating system independent code rather than the current situation of software companies like Adobe whoring themselves out to only one operating system – Windows.
Its sad, when we talk about the Microsoft monopoly, one must also take into account the companies who refuse to port their software to other operating systems, and hardware vendors who are unwilling to put the hard work on their suppliers to open up or lose their supply contract.
The PC manufacturers are giving it thought; realising it is they who decide what operating system is included. Not the software companies themselves. Horray for simple logic!
i wouldn’t buy a dell even if it had mac os x on it
If Dell decides to ‘pre-load’ (Linux Distro) then give them some choices not just Ubuntu, I would want the option of SuSE, Fedora and so on…. It would not be that hard for Dell to build machines and equip them like the customer wants. Plus the revenue and the word of mouth would be FREE marketing for them.
The customer is always right and they are missing an entire market segment and lots of revenue. Some people do not think so but for every niche there is a lot of money Dell can make and make the end user happy and refer other customers….
2007-03-21 5:45 amDigitalAxis
But if they ship it, they’ll probably be liable to support it. I can’t see them trying to cater to more than one distro.
That said, if the computer works with Fedora, it will probably work fairly well with Debian or SuSE, etc etc
why couldn’t the Linux distro do the support though? Like how Canonical has their own support, Red Hat, Novell, etc..
Dell already has Laptops that fully support Linux. They don’t ship Linux with it, but they seem to work very well with Linux. There is a good story on the Ubuntu website of Contact Air, a regional airline migrating their entire staff’s laptops to Ubuntu.
So that shows that it could be done, preloading laptops of Dell, however support etc. is a different matter. I guess Dell could always do a deal with the distributor (Ubuntu, Novell, Red Hat … ) to provide the support (similar to what Lenovo did with preinstalled SLED).
I thought business of that magnitude had venture capital or risk capital which they could throw at a project such as this.
I dont see the reason for the stalling,even if they dont want to pre-install linux just make it an option on the drop down menu when you configuring your system on the website.
Thats a win win for them and the customer.What sells , sells, what doesn’t , doesn’t , rather than pre-install units then the demand isn’t there then to say “we told you so”.
Not a very good article.
Close the company and give the money back to the shareholders.
Those are the words spoken by Michael Dell about Apple back in 1997. Seems only fitting now that Apple and Dell’s fortunes are reversed.
I read the following comment in the article:
“For instance, he starts out by asserting that margins on PCs are razor-thin. No figures are provided to back up this assertion. If PC makers are struggling to make a buck, if they show small profits every year and someone makes such an assertion, I would be inclined to take it seriously. But that isn’t the case; PC makers like Dell and HP report profits in hundreds of millions or even more every year. From where do these profits come?”
I wish people would try just a little bit to understand finance. Just because DELL and HP make hundreds of millions of dollars does not mean margins are not razor thin. Let’s say I make a thousand dollars, which sounds ok. If my revenue is a million dollars then a thousand dollars as profit is razor thin.
If I look at the latest filings for Dell, they had a profit margin of 5.10%, which is not that great. It’s ok, but not that great. HP had better profit margins with 6.93% which is not that great either. So yeah I think Mark Shuttleworth was right when he said that margins are razor thin.
2007-03-22 3:34 amObscurus
Indeed, most businesses are considered to be a bit ordinary by shareholders if they are making less than 15% net profit. Some of the companies I have worked for would berate their staff severely and sack people left right and centre if profit margins dipped as low as Dell’s, and one of the businesses I managed required me to keep profits at 20% or better, or else.
I wouldn’t think Mr. Shuttleworth was terribly wrong on this point – he is a fairly successful businessman himself, and would have a fairly broad concept of what constitutes a razor sharp profit margin.
If Dell can pre-load many different versions of Vista, then they could also offer Linux and no OS options.