Open Source

Dell and Linux: What's going on?

It's come to my attention that Dell has actually been listening to its users. They started something they call IdeaStorm to get feedback from userspace. They were apparently "flooded" with requests for laptops pre-installed with Linux. The IdeaStorm page was a wiki used as, most likely, a free "focus group" for the company. Hey, I'm all about using your resources! On this front page the first wiki entry was labeled "Pre-Installed Linux | Ubuntu | Fedora | OpenSUSE | Multi-Boot" and offered polls to get feed back and leave comments. Well, as of my reading, there were 588 comments on the entry. I think Dell is getting the feedback they desire.

But what are they going to do with that feedback? Dells' response:

As this community knows, there is no single customer preference for a distribution of Linux. In the last week, the IdeaStorm community suggested more than half a dozen distributions. We don't want to pick one distribution and alienate users with a preference for another. We want users to have the opportunity to help define the market for Linux on desktop and notebook systems. In addition to working with Novell, we are also working with other distributors and evaluating the possibility of additional certifications across our product line. We are continuing to investigate your other Linux-related ideas, so please continue to check here for updates.

Ah yes, the old "we've listened to you and want to please you...BUT!" Now I'm not completely dogging Dell. At least they are trying. But it seems what they are trying to do is get the open source community's attention by saying "you want laptops with pre-loaded Linux? We just might ship them." In the end, however, they just wind up saying "You see - it's too hard to please everyone so we're just going to ship laptops that we certify will install your distribution of choice."

Okay - that helps those already in the know. The l33t will be able to get a laptop they know will work with Linux. But what about the segment of the computing community that Linux NEEDS to reach out to - you know, the ones that have no idea what a distribution is! What they need are shiny new laptops that arrive at their door pre-loaded and ready to rock the open source way. THAT would be a boon to the Linux community.

Of course there are a few small-time companys that will ship you a laptop pre-loaded with Linux - if you want to shell out FAR too much money for an underpowered piece of machinery that will run Linux. That's not the way the PC industry works now (unless you're Apple). The PC industry works by selling cheap hardware with a pre-installed OS so the user has to do little work to make the hardware useful. 

That's what Dell needs to bring to the Linux table. And they can do it. Pick a distribution and stick to it. Ship SuSE Linux. The users that NEED a pre-installed distro won't care. And if those users WANT to install a different distro, more than likely it'll work.

There - you kill two birds with one stone. Everyone is happy. And in the end, Dell makes a bit more money. 


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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