Dell's dance with Ubuntu: True love or farce?
Here we go again
Where Dell 1.0 had Red Hat, Dell 2.0 sports Ubuntu. Can you really tell the difference?
Dell 1.0 had Michael Dell brag in 2000 about being "the first major manufacturer to offer Linux across its full product line." Dell made these comments at the LinuxWorld conference, where he also promoted Dell investments in open source companies such as Eazel, Red Hat, TurboLinux, Linuxcare and CollabNet.
"Dell has prepared for wide-scale Linux adoption by investing more engineering resources to Linux than to any other operating system," Dell said, at the time. "We're doing this to make it easy for our customers to run Linux; configurations of all Dell products are now designed, tested and certified for Linux. Our factories can now customize each system - from PCs to servers - with Linux."
Less than a year later, Dell quit selling Linux on PCs and laptops to consumers.
Where Michael Dell in 2000 said "the only thing growing faster than Linux is the number of Linux systems Dell is shipping," a Dell spokeswoman in 2001 claimed that weak customer demand forced Dell to scrap its PC/notebook Linux business.
Now Dell reckons that customers again want Linux. So, it's going to ship Ubuntu on a limited number of desktops and laptops. Dell has, in fact, made such computers available with FreeDOS for a long time, as a weird concession to Microsoft. Dell didn't ship the Linux cancer, but it made it really easy for you to outfit a computer with Linux.
Apparently, you – the consumer – convinced Dell to go one step further with Ubuntu.
Dell set up a site called IdeaStorm to gather suggestions from consumers. The notion of pre-installed Linux was promoted 133,089 times on the site, making it the top suggestion. Pre-installing OpenOffice followed at 96,593, and installing Firefox followed at 72,153.
Wouldn't you know it? Michael Dell claims on a Dell website to run his laptop with Ubuntu, OpenOffice and Firefox.
You're told that this Ubuntu love is all part of Dell 2.0. The company is listening to its customers now.
One should, however, question just how authentic Dell 2.0 really is.
After all, Dell claimed that slow Linux desktop sales caused it to scrap the idea back in 2000.
Absorbing that line requires that you ignore Microsoft's rather firm notes to Dell. Microsoft told OEMs to "meet demand but not help create demand" where Linux was concerned.
You'll also recall that Dell said there was no customer demand for Opteron-based servers even though sales of Opteron chips skyrocketed, leaving Dell's server business as flat as a Midland, Texas road. Did Dell listen harder to Intel or its customers? Not the hardest question to answer.
Exactly who is Dell's master these days? Partners and margins or the customer?
This Ubuntu experiment should give us a clue. ®
Paying to go mainstream ?
The reason Dell Linux 1.0 failed was because the potential buyers felt that they were paying for Windows and increasing Microsoft's gain unwillingly. Also, there was not full commitment, as if it were a trick to show how uninteresting GNU/Linux is; a purposely backfire.
Now, with Dell Linux 2.0 it might be radically different, if the GNU/Linux preinstalled OEM computers have a price at least ten dollars cheaper than the corresponding Windows preinstallation and they are not counted as a Windows sale (this is an important detail).
It is very important that a big OEM such as Dell sells GNU/Linux preinstalled, because it is how Windows became ubiquitous. I have three daughters, all over twenty. Two of them bought a Dell laptop, with Windows XP preinstalled, one uses a Windows XP desktop at home although her husband is a GNU/Linux enthusiast, and my wife has a Toshiba laptop with Windows XP preinstalled. None of my family members take GNU/Linux seriously just because no major OEM preinstalls it.
Now, we are in a transition for the next two years. Many people are undecided, or unwilling, to jump into the Windows Vista migration, as are even government agencies. For the majority of people who are Windows users because GNU/Linux does not support their favorite application, Dell should announce a special setup: Two OSs in One: preinstallation of GNU/Linux with Windows XP as a virtual machine under it. I am sure that it would raise the curiosity and impulse to buy of many people in the world. Or simply, preinstall GNU/Linux with a virtual framework, so that the user can install any OS as a virtual machine: DOS, Windows 3, 95, 98, ME, NT, 2k, XP, another GNU/Linux distribution, except Windows Vista. This would be real nice and raise the public opinion of Dell quite high, without adding major support problems.
My family members are like Harry Homeowner; they want things to work without problems. They might buy a GNU/Linux preinstalled Dell or Toshiba computer, if they had this option.
Another version of Colin Jackson's post...
I think you're over-stating the case when you make the point that [English is easy to learn and use]. In the forum I hang out, we ran an experiment. Six [native speakers of Mandarin Chinese] who had never [spoken English] before [were given a "Learn English quick-quick" language course]. Some [learned] the [Geordie] version and some the [Surrey] version (by some accounts the [Surrey] version is more [intelligible].
All but one had problems either [learning the language], [remembering the vocabulary], or [spelling common English words]. Issue ranged from [irregular verbs to inconsistent grammar to getting really p*ssed off with pronouncing bough, through, enough, cough, and dough properly].
To quote one of the participants: "I simply don't have the time to spend three hours attempting to [buy ingredients in Safeway for a takeaway banquet for eight] (and failing) what [a native Chinese does in Beijing] in two minutes and a couple of [wok] clicks...". Remember these are [Chinese people from 12,000 miles away]. "Too much hassle all of this", to quote another.
Meanwhile, experienced [Oxford Dons] were chipping in suggestions: "Use [a dictionary]", "Use [crib notes]" etc. All very well, but that's just over-loading a new user with strange stuff.
My own experience with it (as somebody who is somewhat familiar with it but not intimately familiar) is that it's fine until something out-of-the-ordinary occurs, then getting to grips with the [big words] suddenly becomes a matter of dealing with some very arcane aspects of the underlying [English language].
Experienced [English speakers] who were also playing with the new [West Country version - "OO-ARR" Professional] all reported a good experience and loved it. This suggests that while the current crop of 'user friendly' [dialects] really are user-friendly IF you know what you're doing, [English] still has a long way to go before a [Chinese person] unfamiliar with it is going to feel comfortable with it, much less [a Tibetan peasant]. And while this is the case, the market for [learning to speak like a Brummie] is never going to start growing even linearly, much less exponentially.
Harry Home Owner ...
It sounds like Ubuntu works well enough until something out of the ordinary happens. Then you have to look under the hood and get your hands dirty with OS level stuff. At first blush, it would seem this fact would push our friend Harry into the waiting arms of Microsoft. But anybody that works in IT realized long ago that if a they can't print, the typical user calls for help FIRST. They don't read the documentation, they don't try to diagnose the problem. They want somebody else to fix it. Even if the fix is plugging it back into the wall socket. So what difference does it make if they guy they call to fix the printing issue is a Linux Penguin or Microsoft fanboi. They don't care. When the computer geek leaves, the printer works. When somebody has a computer problem, they call ME. Even when I'm not at work. I'm a systems integrator, not a PC Tech. But they think "Hey! Bob knows computers. He can fix it" and they ring me up. If Dell can get a system that runs out of the box and does what people expect and sell it for less money than a Windows system, people will buy it. And when it doesn't work, they will call me.
RE: Is it actually POSSIBLE to install any OS on a DELL machine these days?
> I recommend to anybody to use whatever OS they feel comfortable with, but don't buy one of these mass-produced corner-cut shams. You'll hit a brick wall the minute you diverge from the bare basic use-case.
The site http://cexx.org/craputer.htm explains it all.
Pay more for Linux
In the past, specials with Windows, were cheaper than the Linux version.
The only way that Linux on Dell will be useful is if the Linux-installed version is at least a few dollars cheaper. Seeing how easy it is to add Linux as a dual boot option (and not worry about compatibility with M$ media formats under Linux), why not get it if the price is the same or higher for a Linux version?
My year-old Inspiron 1505 is set up with a 15 GB Windows partition and Ubuntu has the other 60 or so GB.