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Dells Linux Strategy May 5, 2007

Posted by rjdohnert in Opinions.

Dell has announced it will start selling PC’s with Linux preinstalled.  The distribution of choice will be Ubuntu.  While I like Linux and run it often I dont think Dell will do very well with this strategy.  They threw up IdeaStorm and because a few people registered multiple accounts and voted for Linux to be preinstalled they decided to go ahead and just do it.  Well, I think Dell might of not have thought this through.  First, is there a market.  I doubt it.  Most people who run Linux build their own PC’s very few of them actually buy preinstalled systems.  Can Dell market these machines to the common user and make them tech enough to run  these machines.  Device driver support is still too limited as well as most common applications people are used to using dont have native ports available.  Is Dell going to set up training classes to teach the alternative software?  Is Dell going to be able to support and resolve issues that pertain to hardware and software compatibility.  Dell doesnt have access to the source code to wireless devices, bluetooth devices, web cams, sound cards, and Dell cannot open source Nvidia or ATI drivers nor can they ship them with their systems as per Novell and a few other kernel developers the Nvidia drivers violate the GPL.  Are Dell technicians ready to walk customers throught the laborous tasks of advanced system configurations, command line computing and setting up software emulation?  I think the real wake up call for Dell will be when Dell logs thousands of unresolved support issues and are unable to maintain customer satisfaction.

You also have to look at Ubuntu in itself.  This will be a real test of Ubuntu’s strength and weaknesses.  The sudo system that is the default in the system and also the issue of release cycles.  Microsoft Windows has a support lifecycle of 5 years for mainstream support.  The LTS version of Ubuntu has three at the most, which Dell is not using the LTS version.  They are using the standard release which only has a support lifecycle of 18 months and a new release comes out every 6 months.  Will customers put up with the bugs and other problems Canonical is notorious for introducing with every new release.  Already the fingerpointing has started.  When asked who will support the systems Canonical pointed at Dell and Dell pointed at Canonical.

I personally wouldnt spend a nickel on any Dell preinstalled Linux until Dell can prove to me that they are not only capable of supporting the machines but the software issues as well that will arise.



1. Thomas Brenneke - May 11, 2007

I agree that the margin of interest is going to be stretched very thin with this push into the desktop linux arena. I see more and more of my fellow linux colleagues moving over to OSX (some moving back shortly after) and I am struggling to see a viable need for Dell to make this sort of headway.

Don’t get me wrong, linux on the desktop is a novel idea, I was a red hat desktop user for several years until I discovered OSX… I just don’t think Dell is going to be prepared for the level of support and training required to meet customer satisfaction levels, as you have described in your post.

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