Dell takes small steps toward Linux

PC maker will certify some corporate machines with Novell's Suse Linux, but stops short of offering pre-installed Linux.
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor
Dell has acknowledged that 83,000 users have urged it to sell PCs with Linux pre-installed, but it has fallen short of accepting their suggestion.

The requests were made through a new user forum, Dell IdeaStorm, which was launched by Dell 10 days ago, shortly after Michael Dell regained the chief executive's seat. Dell IdeaStorm gives users the chance to tell the PC vendor what kind of systems it should offer.

As of Monday, more than 83,000 users had requested that Linux should be provided on all Dell PCs.

In a statement issued on its Web site, Dell said it had taken notice of the suggestions made on the IdeaStorm. But it stopped short of offering pre-installed Linux, and instead said it would certify some of its corporate machines with Novell's Suse Linux software. Certification should mean that Suse would function smoothly on all Dell PCs.

"It's exciting to see the IdeaStorm community's interest in open-source solutions like Linux and OpenOffice. We are listening, and as a result, we are working with Novell to certify corporate client products for Linux, including our OptiPlex desktops, Latitude notebooks and Dell Precision workstations. We are also evaluating the possibility of additional certifications across our product line," Dell said.

"The IdeaStorm community suggested more than half a dozen (Linux) distributions. We don't want to pick one distribution and alienate users with a preference for another. We are continuing to investigate your other Linux-related ideas," the statement continued.

While Dell responded to four other suggestions from the IdeaStorm, it chose not to respond to two of the top six requests, one asking for the provision of OpenOffice alongside Microsoft Office and one requesting that Dell's systems should be offered without an operating system for customers outside the U.S. Fifty-three thousand users promoted the first suggestion, and 32,000 voted for the latter.

Dell currently offers three PC models without an operating system, known as the nSeries, but only customers in the U.S. can buy them.

One request the company did address was a demand for a "clean" Vista operating system, without extra software from the likes of AOL, EarthLink and Google.

Dell said customers buying its XPS range of PCs could already opt out of "almost all" pre-installed software. "We will be expanding this effort in the coming months," Dell's statement said. "Dell has also taken steps to make it easier for customers to remove software once they receive their PC. Today, customers can kick off an un-install of almost any application by declining the EULA (End User Licensing Agreement)."

"We plan on increasing the degree of customer control moving forward, allowing customers to more quickly select software they want to remove and facilitate simple un-installation," Dell added.

Richard Thurston of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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