Dell's Linux PC launch has gone belly up as the computer supplier admitted it has been hit by "gremlins".
Dell said on Tuesday that it would launch two PCs with a pre-installed Linux operating system today. The PCs will be Dell's first foray into offering Linux-based machines. All its PCs previously sold in the UK ran Windows operating systems. But, after promising that the systems would be available today, Dell faced ongoing technical problems.
Adam Griffin, Dell's spokesperson for the Linux launch, told ZDNet.co.uk that there were "some early issues" and that there were "gremlins in our online stores".
Griffin, speaking at 11.40am, promised that the launch had been rescheduled for midday, and that the problems would be overcome by then. However, when ZDNet.co.uk published this article late in the afternoon, many of the problems had not been solved.
Customers trying to view details of the systems via the Ubuntu link publicised by Dell were met with one of two messages: "We're sorry. The page you requested may no longer exist on Dell.com" or "Apologies. We had a problem trying to process your last action".
Dell said there was an alternative URL, which worked when tested. But our attempts to order the Linux PCs proved less successful.
Having fired up the chat facility on Dell's site to ask about the machines, ZDNet.co.uk was told it was impossible to order one.
The Dell employee who picked up the questions wrote: "We are still having some problems ordering that online, as it gives [an] error message. You will have to wait till this weekend when the website will be rectified."
When ZDNet.co.uk asked the nature of the problem, the employee said: "We are experiencing a technical snag to build these machines on the website as well as on our software. That is the reason. If you call up sales, you will get the same information as well."
ZDNet.co.uk called Dell's sales line, and received different information.
After being passed from salesperson to supervisor, ZDNet.co.uk was told that the Inspiron 6400n could be bought, but that it faced an additional nine-day shipping delay, which could take delivery to as late as 30 August.
ZDNet.co.uk was offered the Latitude P520 without any operating system instead.
Griffin said that the two models available with Linux are the 530n desktop and the 6400n notebook. He said the 530n will cost £399 and the 6400n will cost £329 and they will both come with the Ubuntu Linux distribution pre-installed.
The specifications of the Linux systems are understood to vary from the Windows Vista-based equivalent, but Griffin said that customers can expect to pay between €40-50 (£27-£34) less for Linux models than for equivalent Vista models.
Despite earlier calculations which suggested that UK customers would have to pay more than US buyers for the same machines, Griffin insisted this would not be the case.
Dell will provide basic support for the Ubuntu operating system, but more advanced support will come at a price from Ubuntu's commercial backer, Canonical.