Top five PC manufacturers fail naked PC test

Top five PC manufacturers fail naked PC test

Summary: A ZDNet special investigation into buying PCs without an operating system from the top five PC vendors uncovered a litany of conflicting advice and confused instructions

TOPICS: Hardware

IT professionals are being forced to adopt Microsoft's operating systems — even if they tell their PC supplier they want a system free of Microsoft software, ZDNet UK's research has revealed.

ZDNet's reporters posed as undercover buyers to identify the policy of the top-five PC vendors in terms of supplying systems without an operating system, known as naked PCs. A naked PC gives IT professionals freedom to install the operating system of their choice.

But the ZDNet investigation showed that none of the five manufacturers would sell any PCs without Windows, our reporters found.

The reasons — or excuses — were varied.

Acer said it would give our reporter a refund of £30 for not using Windows, but would only make a refund if we drove to its Plymouth "repair" centre. In contrast to other reports, Dell refused to refund the Windows software if it went unused. Instead it offered to cancel the shipping charge of £50 as a compromise.

We backed up our undercover enquiries with official calls to every one of the five vendors. Two of the five — Acer and Toshiba — would not discuss the matter with us. Dell, HP and Lenovo claimed it was possible to buy naked PCs from their company — but our attempts to follow their guidance to buy one proved impossible.

Dell and HP both claimed it was possible to buy a naked PC from them, but we were unable to buy one from either vendor. Lenovo told us it sells PCs with pre-installed Linux, but it could not tell us how we could buy such a system.

Microsoft has placed considerable pressure on a number of PC vendors not to sell systems without Windows. Critics have suggested that vendors have yielded to such pressure because they are afraid of losing their bulk purchasing discount with Microsoft. Others have suggested that it would cost PC vendors considerably more in unit costs to produce naked PCs.

Ranjit Atwal, Gartner principal analyst, is pessimistic about the future for naked PCs. "The market for Linux is probably not big enough for them [suppliers] to go down that route," said Atwal, adding that he thought the number of users wanting to use Linux at the desktop was "in the small single digits".

"To do that [provide systems without Windows] costs them money," he argued.

Yet many customers have demanded naked PCs. A user forum set up in February by Dell has been inundated with such requests.

Read this

Swiss user wins Vista refund

Dell Germany seems to be cottoning on to naked PCs, Richard Thurston writes.

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While customers find it difficult to get naked PCs, some of the vendors are beginning to apply more thought to loading Linux on PCs for both high-street buyers and corporates. HP is one such company. It recently began a feasibility study that tested the public's appetite for the operating system.

"We carried out a test marketing exercise and made Linux PCs available to users," explained Peter Murray, director of enterprise server and storage at HP. "It was disappointing and we had very little interest. We looked at the exercise and we think we may have got the marketing wrong so we are trying it again."

Murray believes there is a market for Linux in the UK but is also aware of the issues facing any large supplier who wants to make Linux boxes available. "It means diverting production lines and that is a lot of money and so we have to prove the business case," he said. However, he made it clear that he is enthusiastic about the idea and wants to make it work. "We just have to show it is worthwhile," he said.

Dell's position is less clear. The company has said it is keen to promote Linux and systems ready to run with Red Hat Linux are available on its site, but only in the US. While Linux is not available to UK users, Dell is currently assessing user interest on its own site and is asking for input from potential Dell/Linux users.

We have used the latest figures on PC sales from Gartner to identify the top five vendors. We detail our findings one vendor at a time over the following five pages.

Additional reporting by Colin Barker of ZDNet UK.

Topic: Hardware

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  • Well done!

    Nice to see this subject being aired. But even if you want an MS OS they invariably bundle it with all sorts of rubbish that runs on startup, just look at he systray! You are better off installing it yourself!
  • You can or used to able to get a naked pc from Dell

    In the past I have ordered pc's with no OS from Dell. It took a little persistence but eventually by threatening to take my order else where they buckled. This was an order for about 30 Optiplex desktops. The reason why I wanted they PC without Windows was the company I worked for had an enterprise agreement with Microsoft so we did not want Windows XP Pro OEM on there.

    If there's a reasonable amount of money on the table you might be surprised what a sales person is willing to do.
  • get an IBM/Lenovo with Linux from an independent seller

    The Linux Emporium in the UK ( sell a wide range of IBM/Lenovo laptops, preinstalled with Ubuntu.
  • You CAN by a naked (OS-less) PC

    You can also buy one with Linux pre-installed.
  • I guess you didnt look hard enough - bad report

    Here is the link for a naked pc.
  • Companies selling no-OS computers
  • Naked PCs from Fujitsu Siemens - go to

    Hi anyone interested in naked PC's or with Linux from Fujitsu Siemens can contact us @
  • Production line diversions could only cheapen the price of a 'naked pc'

    This article sites 'production line diversions' as being a main reason manufacturers wouldn't want to sell a 'naked pc'. This sounds like a fancy way of saying they are giving in to pressure from Microsoft. Honestly though, how could it possibly cost them extra money to *remove* a step in their system-building pipeline (installing the OS)? I built my last 2 PCs myself and I'll tell you that if I didn't bother to install the OS, I would have been done a lot quicker and if I was getting paid per hour to do this for someone, I would certainly charge them less too. I'm rather confused.
  • Dell does Linux as well as nothing

    Dell does ship systems with linux as well as systems with nothing installed.
    Nothing installed
    Linux Preinstalled
  • Microsoft is probably giving them a spiff

    Some choose to pass on the spiff as a rebate. The OS is a piece part to them and they have it factored into their cost, so when they say it costs them more, it could, but it would just be the cost of the rebate process and the amount they make on the OS as a piece part.
  • try

    I've been buying low power usage VIA motherboards from Mini-Itx and they are easy about not shipping Windows with their parts. On the other hand, I actually have to build these things. However, its worth it to get 1,500 Bogus Mips in a 20 watt box 1/10th the volume of a normal pizza box.
  • you need to read the article again

    The story clearly says that Dell do sell Linux desktops but only in the US. Your link is to Dell US. So what's your point?
  • again with the US links

    Richard's story clearly says that Dell sells Linux boxes in the US, your links are to ie. Dell US. So what's your point?
  • No Linux PCs to be found on!

    The website has no links anywhere leading to Linux-pre-installed PC offerings. If I enter the simple search term 'Linux PC' in its search box it again leads to nowhere.

    If somebody wants to offer Linux PCs they should clearly say so on their website and not hide it!
  • Look here
  • Again no Linux systems!

    Thank you for your link. Amon others, the lists which uses as a PC distributor. Now, if I search on Misco for e.g. 'Linspire', it then at first delivers some results. However, as soon as I click on the results, it leads to Windows Vista PCs!

    Hence, it doesn't seem to be true when makes the following claim:

    "The company doesn't count if they advertise Linux, then spam you with MS Windows."

    because I am being spammed with MS Windows offerings.
  • Paying double as a company policy?

    If manufacturers state that they hardly ever sell systems without pre-installed Windows then doesn't that mean that large organizations (including those that are fueled by tax money) have made paying double part of their company policy?

    Meaning, that, given the volume purchased, it is possible to purchase customized configurations. That includes almost anything you want, or not want. So why hasn't anyone come up with the idea to purchase systems without pre-installed Windows? Why waste a default price cut? Because chances are high that the moment the systems are delivered they'll get re-installed with some company image backed up by an Enterprise license. Who needs an OEM license then? Heck, you can even get them pre-installed with your own company image.

    Normally that should mean that the statistics of the manufacturers should show that a large enough percentage of systems in purchased without a pre-installed Windows (the OEM version). Given that most large suppliers have a short list of preferred suppliers that usually includes the Top 5 directly or indirectly. But because manufacturers say that the purchase of naked PC's doesn;t even register that can only mean that plenty of budget has been burned on unused OEM licenses. Or the statistics don't add up. Or prices are artificial.

    Think about this for a while. Estimate the number of systems purchased in large volumes over the years and imagine what kind of impact that might have had on tax money saved and/or jobs saved.
    It does add up.

    Either manufacturer statistics only show their best interest and clearly no longer can be trusted or a lot of large organizations should have a serious talk with whomever negotiates their purchases. Perhaps ask their money back or change preferred supplier.

    In short, it most likely boils down to a self fulfilling prophecy most simply take for granted. And thus pay the price for it.