Dell still trying to figure out what customers want

Dell still trying to figure out what customers want

Summary: It seems that Dell is still trying to figure out what customers want when it comes to Linux. Not content with IdeaStorm, Dell now has a survey where those who want to see Linux on Dell PCs can have their say. But from where I'm sitting, Dell still doesn't get it.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Dell
70

It seems that Dell is still trying to figure out what customers want when it comes to Linux.  Not content with IdeaStorm, Dell now has a survey where those who want to see Linux on Dell PCs can have their say.  But from where I'm sitting, Dell still doesn't get it.

The comments that I read over on IdeaStorm relating to the "Linux on a Dell" lead me to the conclusion that what people (Dell customers, potential customers, the wider Linux community) want is not to be able to buy a Dell with a Linux distro already on it, but to be able to buy a Dell which they can then install Linux onto.  In other words, it's having Linux-friendly hardware and drivers which is important.

This makes sense.  One of the strong points of Linux is choice (some would say that too much choice when it comes to distros is also a major weakness) and being able to pick and choose a distro after buying a PC would be the ideal scenario.  But this means that Dell has to get its act together with regards to drivers - in particular graphics card, modem and WiFi drivers.

It's odd to see a huge corporation like Dell taking this large-scale committee approach to making a decision like this.  Maybe someone in the PR department thinks that this is what open source is all about.  It seems to me that what Dell is trying to do is to please everyone (or at least give that impression) but I can't see how they're not going to end up annoying a lot of people.  There's no way that we're going to see multiple Linux distros being offered across the Dell range so whatever happens is going to be a compromise.

Another issue is cost and whether any of this is going to be financially successful for Dell.  Personally I'm skeptical that Dell will see any real cash from dabbling with Linux in the near future at any rate, and if this experiment causes the company to hemorrhage money, the plug will get pulled in double-quick time.

Still, if you're interested in having your say, the survey can be found here.  It's open from March 13th to March 23rd.

Topic: Dell

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

70 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Hardware

    It's hardware, hardware, hardware. While Dell could pick up a fair amount of business offering a distro preloaded, if they would work with the Linux Standards Base folks, and make hardware drivers available for Linux, it would be huge.
    I like building my own computers, but it takes time to make certain the combo will work with Linux- there are times I would buy a Dell (or other big name), if I could be assured that the box had Linux drivers available- most Distro's would package prebuilt drivers if they could (they do when they can).
    bryantrv
    • Hardware manufacturers

      That is the root of the problem. The hardware manufacturers, have for years locked themselves to Bill and MS, for fear of being "competed" out of the market place, by a corporation of remarkable power and greed. If the hardware manufacturers can see a viable market, without fear of commercial intimidation from MS, they will jump to supply the neccessary drivers. They are business for God's sake, they are in business to make money, nothing else. How many more times, do the worlds courts, need to take MS in for anti-trust, or anti-competitive actions?

      Come on manufacturers, wake up, we won't buy your products, until they actually work. On all systems X86 in type. I personally am sick of the made for Windows only rubbish.

      I use HP, because they work well under Linux and MS.
      I use AMD and Nvidea, because they work well under both systems. It is the hardware manufacturers, that we must get stuck into. Berate them mercilessly, to build drivers for all X86 compatible Operating Systems.
      You do of course get lucky sometimes, I use a Silicon Image PCI IDE raid card, Linux sees it natively, Windows demands drivers be installed. Guess which OS does not have access to my raid set?

      Shorty.
      shorty943@...
      • There is more than hardware

        Buggy BIOS is also one pain when buying computers. ACPI is software in BIOS for getting info about stuff like how to hibernate computer and save energy etc. Intel has one compiler that works and MS another buggy one. My portable HP Pavillion zd8180ea has that buggy one, and is a hell to put into hibernation and throttling CPU to save energy.
        And HP (and Dell etc) refuses to fix those buggs becouse "it works in MS Windows".
        Give us hardware with free drivers and bugg-free BIOS. Put a good (branded) Linux distribution on it if you like, but that isn't even needed. Put a "Designed for Linux" sticker beside the "Designed for Microsoft Windows Vista". That will make a good computer for both worlds.
        Jxn
      • There is more than hardware

        Buggy BIOS is also one pain when buying computers. ACPI is software in BIOS for getting info about stuff like how to hibernate computer and save energy etc. Intel has one compiler that works and MS another buggy one. My portable HP Pavillion zd8180ea has that buggy one, and is a hell to put into hibernation and throttling CPU to save energy.
        And HP (and Dell etc) refuses to fix those buggs becouse "it works in MS Windows".
        Give us hardware with free drivers and bugg-free BIOS. Put a good (branded) Linux distribution on it if you like, but that isn't even needed. Put a "Designed for Linux" sticker beside the "Designed for Microsoft Windows Vista". That will make a good computer for both worlds.
        Jxn
  • Large scale Corporate Customers.

    Dell is known to have large scale Enterprise Customers.
    The wrong approach they have with this initiative is to try to ask the "general" Public about what they want to install in their PC's.
    The "Linux ready" folks know how to install Linux so the only thing they need is driver support and the commitment from Dell in support trough the usual community forums.
    The ones with no experience on Linux can have the most user friendly Distro out there, either Novell/ubuntu.
    Anyone will do.

    A great move from Dell would be to prepare PC's for large Enterprises to replace desktops that can indeed run Linux, as the only needed Software is a browser.
    All this years of moving applications to web interfaces can make a great sell for Dell.
    And this would result in a profit, or at least it would not be a loss as we know changes have associated costs.

    Regards,
    Pedro
    p_msac@...
    • Incurring the wrath of Redmond

      There are very complex legal relationships between Microsoft and OEMs which allow hardware manufacturers to ship pre-installed Windows.

      Try to buy a PC WITHOUT Windows from HP, Dell, Gateway etc. I think there is a small print in the EULA that will give you a dollar back if you promise to wipe the image and never install it.

      What you say will work TECHNICALLY for many call centers, etc. but it is not something anyone wants to touch from a political standpoint.
      JackPastor
      • The challenges are big both ways ...

        Imagine that the Linux machines or the no OS machines ready to install Linux or Windows get out for, say 50US$ less them the pre-loaded OS PC's.
        That means that a huge savings on big orders.
        Added to the Big company discounts, that can save a lot of money (not to mention the savings on related anti-virus, malware protection deployment software, it could reach values on the order of 150-200$ per PC!).
        I also think besides call-centers in all those Bank office teller machines, insurance, health care centers, factories, logistics operators, and so much more ... there is a huge number of PCs that simply will never even run games.
        And that is by no means a small number in the overall PC market.

        I agree with you on the provider relationship stakes in the industry, it is a Big Big Bet from Dell, and if they go forward with this it means perhaps that they want also to push MS to the wall.
        Of course, if HP, Gateway, and the unbranded labels all go that way, it is MS that will get squeezed to the wall.
        Either way it will be interesting.

        I already see a lot of unlabeled PC's selling with Open Office pre-installed and that will continue.
        For the general market it is still to early to call.
        But for a company that makes PC over internet orders the Option of installing Linux is Big Plus!
        Imagine the number of customers that have a Valid Windows version License, they can use it in the new PC from Dell together with Linux for example.
        They do not need to be Constantly Buying Hardware And Software!
        And this can be a huge effect.

        Regards,
        Pedro
        p_msac@...
      • retribution

        Supposedly the possibility of retribution from Microsoft was eliminated by the DOJ anti trust trial, which the DOJ won, and the settlement which was approved by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. In effect the "settlement" has proven to be only "ABSOLUTION".

        Perhaps the DOJ needs to go back and insist upon removing Microsoft from the OEM preload distribution channel.
        Update victim
    • Corporations with other licensing deals

      I find it incredulous that some large corporations buy thousands of machines with Win XP Home preinstalled. Because the company have a corporate licensing deal, they simply wipe Home and install Pro to allow connection to their network. Obviously, being able to buy a system without an OS would be sensible.

      Currently, each machine has a useless licence sticker on it that never gets used. When the machines are refreshed (replaced) a few years later, the licenses won't activate (they seem to have expired).

      That's like buying a car supplied with a trailer even though you already own a trailer, then not being able to use or sell the supplied one! Ridiculous!
      Big Scoddie
      • The same for individual users ...

        Some people might want to install a previous version of Windows OS ...
        Imagine someone that bought a license from a previous PC that was scrapped and now wants to install that Windows version in a new
        Dell ..
        In the corporate case the advantage is more obvious, some PC's, depending on the enterprise activity, simply do not need windows installed.
        And the gains are not only the cheap Windows license, but the unavoidable anti-virus/anti-malware, maybe backup, per exchange user license, and also deployment agents if that is the case.
        Not to mention the savings every single year in maintenance.
        All added together the savings are far superior to the price of the PC itself.

        Regards,
        Pedro
        p_msac@...
  • Here We Go Again

    "what comes around goes around" or something like that applies to computers. Decades ago computers were a pain because every company had their own hdw and operating system; i.e., there was IBM, NCR, Burroughs, Univac, Dec and a score of others, all imcompatible (mostly) with each other. That made everything about computing very inefficient nationally and tech people found it difficult to switch employers.

    Are we retro'ing back into that same scenario?
    lmenningen
    • Those who don;t learn from history

      or weren't actually there (like 95% of the Linux boosters) are doomed to repeat it.

      The problem with the eunuchs fanatics is that they don't remember how bad it was until Windows came around. They obviously don't realise the multitude of apps that were made possible by Windows and with Microsoft's development systems. They also have trouble realising that over 90% of the world uses Windows. Essentially Linux is free and they can't give it away.

      Anyone like to count the number of times it was going to be the year of *nix? We now have a global interface standard and a global platform and instead of getting on with it, they want us to go back nearly forty years and use an OS that had it's hayday in the 70's or a warmed over open source copy. There's nothing wrong with *nix for simple things, like servers without bells and whistles, video recorders and call centres - but a desktop ROFL.

      Sorry the parrot is so dead it's petrified.
      TonyMcS
      • Well I see the

        village idiot has arrived on queue! Listen bub, Linux and Mac are more than capable of integration. It's Microsoft that makes it difficult. See all the others are willing to play by open standards and protocols, while Microsoft has to buck the system and make their own. And problem is all the protocols and standards they create are actually mutations of existing ones, ba$tardized so only work with Microsoft.

        As for the Global standard, in case you haven't noticed other nations are moving away from Microsoft to Linux. Why? Because of open standards and the fact that Linux doesn't cost an arm and a leg to rent (operative word is rent) plus is will run on existing hardware pretty damn good, again giving a savings while adhering to open standards of interoperability. ]:)

        Now go home, your village is looking for you.
        Linux User 147560
      • Is that how you judge an operating system?

        By the number of "bells and whistles?" Efficiency, reliability, performance, versatility, security, and generality mean nothing?

        <p>Don't like Linux? Don't use it. Unlike what Microsoft does with it's OS-for-children, no one's going to try to cram Linux down your throat.
        Henrik Moller
        • Cram it

          A big part of the problem, is the OS-for-children attitude of MS. Only Microsoft knows computing, the rest of us are apparently dills. The rest is the almost "I don't want to need to learn any more" attitude of the everyday computer user. Bill and MS know, that the human being is basically a lazy creature. "If someone else has already done the background work, why should I have to learn?" Seems to be the prevailling attitude. They want their computer to be like their car, fully automatic, coz technology thingies,"is so complicated".
          Remember the old joke about the blonde secretary and the correcting fluid on the monitor? Well, all those people had children, and they share the parents genes.
          MS knows this, and plays it for all they can get. Prey on the fears and the keeping up with the Jones' mind set. Hold their hands, as they trip down the information highway.
          Some people need MS, Okay, let them use it, I am today. Others of us like, or even prefer, to use one of the many distro's of Linux. I do that too.

          Shorty.
          shorty943@...
          • Not lazy.

            You wrote:
            "The rest is the almost 'I don't want to need to learn any more' attitude of the everyday computer user. Bill and MS know, that the human being is basically a lazy creature."

            People can choose the amount of time they wish to expend on any aspect of their lives, and computers are for many a low priority. I'd change "I don't want" to "I choose not".

            This can be aggravating in many situations, but it's a reality rather than a widespread error.
            Anton Philidor
      • So wrong!

        Tony, your brain is so dead, it's petrified...pure rock.

        I have been in this "computer game" for almost 40 years, working on operating systems and software most people have never even heard of. Your remarks smack of pure prejudice and stupidity. It is so obvious that you have no idea what you are talking about.

        Linux has been growing and making inroads to the desktop area, at Microsoft's expense. Most of the world, is moving to linux, and Microsoft is running scared.

        I use and support Windows in all it's flavors, AIX, HP-UX, and linux. I personally prefer linux on my home systems. Please stop screaming the Microsoft propaganda, until you have worked with other OS's and have some facts to back up your hysteria.
        linux for me
        • Ahmen!!!

          You are so right. Been there since -82 and seen MS Windows from the beginning. I take Linux any day befor touching MS Windows for any serious work. But I once in a while boot my MS Windows XP prof (that I couldn't get money back on) to run some game. Which usally , not allways, works relativly ok on.
          Jxn
      • Have I got this right?

        You believe Windows, with its TCP/IP stack bandaided to it in the form of a web browser, that can only mount 1 kind of net share, originally designed to run one program on one CPU, for 1 unsecured user in 640Kb of memory is superior to an OS that written to run multiple programs for multiple users on multiple CPUs, connected to multiple computers using all the memory the CPUs can address?
        Really?
        BTW: DOS and, hence Windows, is based on another 40 year old OS called CP/M.
        jimselover
    • the cycle never ends

      You are wrong that MS standardized everything, and prior to that the computer world was in chaos. Prior to MS, IBM had standardized computers. It ran the standards committees. And it is not MS that improved computers, but the hardware that allowed MS to operate more instructions per second. Everyone in the world used IBM. IBM had their own word processing program for PCs (remember?) Everyone corp used IBM.

      If you knew the history of computers, you would see the cycle of going from standalone to distributive to standalone, and from a one thread os to a multithread os to one thread. The first computer could only do one instruction at a time, then mainframes could do multiple instructions, then PCs could only do one instruction, then PCs could do multiple instructions, then PDAs could only do one instruction, then PDAs could do multiple instructions.

      Eventually, like Sears, Montgomery Wards, Builder's Square and IBM, MS will not be the defacto. There is a new Home Depot or Wal-Mart just around the corner.
      JEFFREY.JACOBSON@...