Dell - Make Windows optional extra on all your PCs

Dell - Make Windows optional extra on all your PCs

Summary: Dell doesn't want to go to the cost and hassle of supporting multiple Linux distros. The alternative is simple - make Windows optional extra on all your PCs.


Dell doesn't want to go to the cost and hassle of supporting multiple Linux distros.  The alternative is simple - make Windows optional extra on all your PCs.

Dell's IdeaStorm wasn't up for long before it became clear what many people wanted - for Dell to offer Linux on their PCs.  But it's not going to happen.  Partly for economic reasons but also partly for ideological reasons, Dell has made it clear that this isn't going to happen.  But why not just take this opportunity to make it easier and cheaper for those who want to take the Linux route and make Windows an optional extra across the range?  Seems a nice, straightforward solution to me that costs Dell nothing.

I just want to note that while throughout this post I'll refer specifically to Dell, it applies equally to other OEMs too.

I was skeptical right from the start about Dell making Linux-based PCs widely available.  In my opinion Dell has enough trouble supporting Windows without adding more operating systems into the mix.  One Linux distro wouldn't be too bad (although putting in the tech support infrastructure for that alone would come with a hefty price tag), but supporting, say, half a dozen would be expensive indeed.  At a period in history when Dell is far more concerned with making more money and cutting costs, the idea of supporting several Linux distros can't be one that anyone takes seriously.

There's also a question of market.  Currently 95,000 have "promoted" the Linux on a Dell idea, which is a large number in itself, but a small drop on the ocean for an OEM like Dell.  Dell would need to be pushing millions of Linux-based PCs out of the door every year to make a proposition like this worthwhile.  While I have no doubts that Dell would receive a huge amount of goodwill from the Linux community if it did choose to broadly support Linux, you can't take goodwill to the bank.  By shipping PCs sans Windows, the customer would be free to choose the operating system that best suits them.  However, to give the end user a proper choice rather than just pay lip service to Linux, Dell would need to make sure that their hardware was supported by Linux.  The user would have a choice, but no support.

What about the chances that we'll see Dell shipping PCs that aren't loaded with craplets (you know, all that trialware and crippled software that you have to uninstall off a PC once you get it)?  Well, the truth is that the price of the PC is subsidized by third-party software vendors who want you to have the opportunity to use and then buy their wares.  Get rid of the craplets and you'll see the price of the PC go up.  Fact.  This is why you don't see useful open source apps shipped with PCs, they's no money in it.  And that's the bottom line.

Topic: Dell

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  • Question

    What is Dell's revenue per PC for craplets? Does it offset the cost of Windows? Exceed the cost of Windows?

    If a PC without Windows costs the same or more than a PC with Windows, (sane) people will buy the PC with Windows because even if they don't really want Windows at least it gives them the option. With today's cheap storage why not dual boot if it doesn't cost any more?
    Erik Engbrecht
  • We have experimented with shipping systems ...

    ... sans an OS. The support cost go up significantly. Preinstalling Windows with drivers that we have tested gives the customer a system that works out of the box. We don't have to explain partitioning, formating, where to get drivers, etc... Linux is not an option because there are so many distros and configuration options based on the users choice that you could never get one configured in such a way as to not be criticised by 80% of the Linux Community. If you ask 10 different Linux supporters what is their favorite distro you are likely to get 6 different answers. If you ask them about a distro that isn't their favorite 4 of them will tell you it is junk. If you ask them about the size of various partitions you will get 10 different answers. This isn't even the half of it. In order to preinstall you have to set a default root password. How many common users will ever change it? How bad would we be criticised for the resulting exploits? Linux is a mine field for any OEM that loads it!
    • Valid Points, aren't asking for the moon

      If you read ideastorm, the concensus is

      1) Offer Ubuntu. They have picked a distro, and hundreds, including myself who is running Mandriva, voted Ubuntu. Basically, if it works with Ubuntu, we're golden, and will install our preference if not Ubuntu.
      a) No MS, no money to MS
      b) We know it ALL works with Linux, we can buy order the phone.

      2) We don't want or need support from Dell beyond the hardwware. Dell can explicitly state no software support comes with Linux option. As an aside, it is all speculation. Ubuntu would porbably agree and jump at the chance to provide ALL support if Dell follows through. Cost $0.

      3) Dell is still thinking closes source. If they ask Freespire to send 10 custom configured versions of their OS, each one tweaked for the desktop/laptop specifically, Dell can ship an OS free system, we/customer stick the DVD in and everything just works.
      Cost $0

      None. absolutely none of your concerns is not easily and cost free removable, it simply requires the will.

      As for root password, first boot, change your root password. Rocket science? :-D

      I think Dell laucnhed ideastorm as a propaganda point for thier desire to promote the Suse interop deal already in the works.

      As said, the above works for any OEM.

      • One good advantage to Ubuntu certification

        is that the LiveCD and the installed system are identical. That means when you put in a call to support regarding a hardware issue, the support guy can just have you put the LiveCD in and have you run tests from there.

        I would only offer hardware support if I were Dell if Windows isn't installed, at least until there is enough of a demand.
        Michael Kelly
    • Might be time to try again?

      Just a follow up. It sounds like your company was thinking in a closed source way (i.e. we have to do everything).

      1) Why couldn't you offer an OS free PC that comes with only hardware support. Anyone purchasing that option knows how they want to configure the system.
      2) What would prevent you from selling boxed Linux to go with 1 that offers direct support?

      See, there is a whole community out there who will help, if given the chance.

      • If it were only that easy.

        How do you seperate a hardware problem from a software problem without first taking a support call. The average support call costs more then the margin for the hardware sale. One call breaks the bank. We did the math. It just doen't work. If we could make money seeling the machine without an OS or with Linux preinstalled we would do it. We can't so we dont.
        • Check out next edition in Adrian's article

          Whether Linux or Windows, a hardware problem will result in the call, so that part is even. A poster above mentioned the live CD/DVD. You know it worked, so quickly, hardware/software becomes obvious.

          I think the idea of the next article, purchase with no support would fly very well for most everyone. Linux folks, Windows savvy folks. Take the price of support out and we are on our own unless smoke is coming out of the screen on the cupholder breaks. :D

          • Experience proves this not to be true

            Although I can appreciate where you're coming from ST has the same experience I do. My experience is working with smaller businesses that, as anyone, want to keep their I.T. outlay minimum and just have things work.

            A few customers approached me about trying Linux because some super geek they know said it would save them a ton of $$. Told them I wouldn't recommend it based on their needs but if so they can either have the geek support it or me based on my regular hourly rate on a limited trial basis (IOW most technical person at their place would do a trial of Linux). It usually ended in two ways: 1. The geek either let them down at some point where they abandoned Linux OR 2. My billable time got so high due to ongoing calls about, "Where's the ..." OR "How do I ..." that they switched back to Windows.

            Even though some would say it is geeks only that would do it the problem is geeks are a religious bunch and they proselytize friends and family. Plus some geeks are not humble enough to admit they don't know and will call and bit#h out a tech support person about problem they're absolutely sure is a hardware problem when in fact it might be a misconfigured kernel, etc. Saw it happen a few times at a previous employer running RedHat.
    • As a company we build our own servers

      from components and install Linux on them. This reduced the cost of the PC from about 400 bucks a unit with the hardware configured the way we want to about 290 per unit. With the assembled model we'd wipe the Windows install and install Linux with the ones we build we just install Linux. These are low end systems which support between 1 and 40 users with thin clients using XDMCP. The users have access to open office and other tools. When we first started switching people over there was a bit of grumbling but now people like it, other than Open Office being a bit slow to open.
    • let the market decide

      It would be a great step forward if Dell were to simply offer a choice of Windows OR Linux (any distribution, without support), at a price reduced for the Linux version by an amount reflecting the fee Dell must pay M$ for each copy of Windows.

      For those of us who don't choose to "do" Windows, adding another Linux installation (if the one installed isn't preferred) for dual boot is a no-brainer, and paying the creep from Bellevue for a piece of bloatware that we will immediately scrape off the disk is a waste of money.

      Why insist on charging for something of no perceived value (to some particular customer)? All that does is make the Dell offer less appealing and less competitive (to that particular customer). That still leaves other customers free to choose Windows, as they may prefer.

      In reply to the comment about Windows dummies not bothering to change the root password, that's fairly easily solved by installing each copy with a uniquely generated password and providing it on paper enclosed with the machine (and available from customer support if that copy is lost) -- which instructions might also suggest they change it to something else.

      Of all desperate objections raised to providing Linux as an alternative for people who want it, this excuse perhaps rates among the most desperate.
      • this is why linux is not main stream

        Windows dummies not bothering to change the root password,

        we have a problem in the geek world we think everyone should be as tech savy as we are and are not ready to help the noobs and treat them like crap thats why linux will all ways be a geek os
        SO.CAL Guy
        • I actually believe

          that the reason that Linux does not main stream use is quite simple and if the Linux geekdom would listen they could end up on 10x the desktops they are on now!All Linux needs is an easy installer,not the type they have now but one that when a user downloads a program they think they would like to try all they would have to do is click on the file and with a few clicks of the mouse they would be off to the races.Until Linux has this I can tell you as a system builder that even though I load Linux on my desktops for customers,the number one question is what do I click on to install (blank) and then I have to give the long winded Linux install procedure,it sucks for me and for them .So until Linux developers get their heads out of there asses they will never topple Microsoft because the average consumer doesn't give a rats ass about security or open source they just want to point and click and not have to worry about su this or install that.Pretty simple really but I'm sure the Elite Linux Geekdom Will Never Understand because to them line command is the only right way,to bad I had such high hope but I think Linux may be headed the way of BEOS which was the best OS of the 20th Century.
          • I disagree.

            and actually think the pkg managers are far superior.

            It would appear you may just not yet be familiar with that portion of Linux.

            90% of everything you may ever want or need comes with most distros. the other 10% can be downloaded via the distros package management. Synaptic, Kpackage, YAST, YOU, KLIK, Click-N-RUN, Portage, Packman, RPM etc are some examples. And of course there are CLI tools for those more advanced

            First off having a single repository/tool keeps the uninitiated from installing things they maybe should not.

            But not only that but if you the need to download from other than your distros repository, just click on the package and it should open your distros package manager.

            Linux is already mainstream in the computer world, and on the desktop it is a mainstream alternative.

            The only thing holding it back is ignorance and not a choice available in common distribution channels
          • Reality

            I've been a computer geek for over 30 years. I bought a laptop and on one disk I put SUSE. I have a networked HP 5140. I have been trying for a few weeks off and on to install a driver for this. Several packages needed to be installed for the generic driver. Can't seem to find that last one. It is a xxx_devel which does not Google. I found a copy that was too old. I worked with Unix and Linux. If I am having that problem what will a normal user do? I will solve it but it is not very easy. With Windows installs everything comes in the install package. Not so with Linux.

            The most hated words for me is "All you gotta do is...". That is basically what the site for that driver said.
      • It is funny.....

        how we live in a world of complex gadgets (including computers) and people still want to 'click and run'. Like the old VCR/VTR's which had the ability to record tv automatically at a prefixed time and shut off when done. The vast majority of VCR/VTR users could not or would not deal with the complexity of setting up their VCR/VTR's to so.
        The same seems true of installing programs on computers especially GNU/Linux. MS Windows has the reputation of being 'easy to use'. Like installing all programs with default values (idiot proofing the installer) and then running out of space in 'C' drive because you wanted to try all the programs you could get your hands on! These days of course you could have a 160 GB 'C' drive and not have it happen soon or at all, but that risks all your data (some critical to the users financial well being maybe) getting wiped out with a failure by malware or hardware.
        Package managers like (the gui ones) Synaptic, Yum Extender, Fedora's Software Installer etc ease the so called software installation blues of GNU/Linux. I am at ease with the aforementioned as well as 'configure' 'make' 'make install'. When you get to know them (doesn't take too long to) they are as easy as they sound.

        About root passwords, somebody could come up with a first run utility that works at a low level with most distro's that use a root password that will create the users choice of a root password subject to the usual restrictions.
      • You should pay more for OS less machine.

        As Shadetree says it's all about support. A single support call can make the difference between profit and loss on a machine.

        When any supplier ships a system they have to test it all works. Because of the cost of providing support they cannot afford to ship a system that hasn't been fully tested.

        Testing means the manufacturer has to install an OS and physically test the PCs components. For what ever historical reasons, due to its undesputabley greater share of the market and the fact that manufacturers are all already geared up for supporting it, the only sensible option to use as the basis for this testing is Windows.

        SOOOOO this leaves us with 2 options for supplying your OS-less machine.

        1) Still with testing

        It would cost Manufacturers more in time to install Windows test the machine and then security wipe the hard disk. Add to that the license they would need to pay to MS for there use of the Windows as testing tool.

        2) Limited or no testing

        Shipping an untested system is high risk with much larger chance of receiving that "break the bank" support call for a problem that may not even turn out to be a genuine hardware problem.

        In addition to no software support you should agree to pay the cost of any support calls due to the fact that the the supplier has taken extra risk by shipping with limited testing.

        Either way if you're hatred for Bill et al. is so great that you would prefer to pay more for your machine than to see any money go to MS then you should be prepared to pay a surcharge for not having Windows.
    • Sell with no OS support

      Why not just sell a PC, witch does not use Linux hostile hardware, and offer the system with no support. You would have to cover your hardware, but need not support customer OS loads. This would remove a lot of support problems for you.

      Make sure you state that upfront when you sell the non-preloaded system and let the customer handle the OS load, just as they planned when they ordered. People who plan to load Linux should not need partitioning advice, they should be more savvy users.

      If they can not get it done sell them a copy of your preload at a greater price than you would have charged initially, to discourage people who do not know what they are doing from going this route.
      • No Support Problem

        Dell, Gateway, and others only exist because of support. If the normal consumer didn't need support they would buy, build or whatever from the local guy who will probably get them a PC cheaper than the big guys can produce. Most of us can build a system for pennies on the dollar compared to Dell. But Mom and Pop small business or Suzie (or Eddie) Homemaker will buy from Dell, because they know if it doesn't work, make a call and Dell will make it work. Dell has to sell the support to make their business model work.
        Dell needs to team up with a company like Red Hat or Ubuntu to provide the support option.
    • Self serving rubbish

      quote:: . This isn't even the half of it. In order to preinstall you have to set a default root password. How many common users will ever change it? ::quote

      2nd and 3rd Tier computer manufactureres that are offering Linux preinstalled are not having this problem. It's a simple matter of forcing the user to create a new root password at initial configuration time, you know, just like when you start MS Windows for the first time, you are required to type in that 20 character registration code.

      Additionally the Ubuntus don't require that the user create a root password, only their own and any subsequent ones for other users on nthe system.
      tracy anne
      • Root passwords

        I think an OEM could also randomly produce a password and print that on something
        included with the system. A bit like those random AOL passwords of yesterday.

        Why couldn't Dell offer Linux pre-installed but unsupported? Heck, let people get
        Red Hat Enterprise Linux on the system and have support go through Red Hat! Same
        with Mandriva Linux. Dell could include membership costs in the system price for
        such a system preinstalled.