February 26, 2007 9:37 AM PST

Dell takes small steps toward Linux

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.

See more CNET content tagged:
Linux, Novell Inc., Dell, Dell PC, OpenOffice


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
"We don't want to pick one distribution and alienate users with a preference for another."


"We don't want to alienate Microsoft, who will take illegal punitive measures if we start offering Linux preinstalled."
Posted by fcekuahd (244 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well said...
...I could not agree more. But let us say if the OS being
contemplated on would be OS X Leopard. Will the big picture
Posted by benjiernmd (123 comments )
Link Flag
Not true
Actually Dell has close ties with Red Hat for their server platforms.

This would mean if they were to bundle a free distro, it would most likely be Fedora, a distro that even advocate Eric S. Raymond can't stand using any more.

I think there are many good reasons (not just MS) to not bundle Linux and this move is a pretty good middle ground.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Link Flag
You hit the nail on the head. And also...
I think it would be a little difficult to market without alienating Windows customers. After all, the real reason for buying a Linux PC is the fact that Windows is so crappy. It would be hard not to point that out in an ad for Dell Linux PCs.

Speaking of which, why are Apple's ads so insipid? They should be going for the throat right now, pointing out all of the incredibly anti-customer things that Microsoft has done with Vista and offering an alternative.
Posted by extinctone (214 comments )
Link Flag
"taken notice!?"
That's a euphemism for "we're astonished--we didn't know there were 83,000 Linux users in the entire English-speaking world".

This level of response shows how serious the disaffection with Microsoft is for being so callous in some of the thinking behind Vista and its implementation and now would be a golden moment to get some flavor of much-improved Linux out there into the market, but as the last commenter pointed out Microsoft is prepared to go to court with its old claims about owning some parts of the Linux code.

I wouldn't blame Dell for not wanting to be the sacrificial lamb for the project of taking down Microsoft--after all, they're a hardware maker, not a software maker, they're still dependent upon Microsoft products for their survival in the marketplace, and they have their own troubles.

But there is one entity out there who has some obligation to interject themselves into the market breech--Canonical, the company underwriting Ubuntu, whose efforts have made so many of the tech proletariat take notice of Linux. Perhaps it's time for them to take on hardware distribution? Marketing? Manufacturing? Or at least a lot of negotiating and some public statements? If you believe in the mission, what's it worth to you to break out to the next level?...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm not sure it's really 83000 people
I registered at the site so I could vote for the pre-installed linux distro suggestion. When I clicked the promote button, however, a "+10" appeared in front of it, and when I refreshed the page, the number beside that idea had gone up by 10.

The FAQ says "Every time you vote, the score on the idea is bumped up by 10 points. This score indicates how well-liked the idea is. The more well-liked the idea, the higher on the ?Most Popular? page it goes. However, as the ideas get older, they move lower down on the page. The combination of these forces decides how the ideas are ranked in the ?Most Popular? section." So it would seem to be closer to 8,500 people voting for the idea...no idea why its score isn't a multiple of ten, though.
Posted by arlosoft (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Dell's servers come with Linux right now...
You can get RedHat Enterprise Linux pre-installed on most of Dell's server line... I don't see the big deal to put it on PC's really.

Support? Do the same deal that you do w/ RedHat. I'm sure Novell wouldn't mind.

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ship with no OS and certify all Dell hardware for Linux use
I'd personally like to see Dell offer a "no OS" (with no OS/software support) option for all their hardware (desktops/laptops - they already have it for servers!) and then they should certify not only the machine hardware for Linux use, but also any peripherals that they sell on their site.

Anyone with half a clue reformats their hard drive and puts on a clean copy of their favourite OS (Windows or one of the many Linux distros out there) anyway- it's the easiest way to remove the adware that Dell ship and also partition/format the drive to your preference. Hence, shipping no OS would be ideal for the technically savvy users out there, whereas newbies can continue to order Windows pre-installed with adware as usual.
Posted by rklrkl (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another "hard lesson" to be learned by Dell
Just as they lost market share by not offering AMD processors and HP took that share away from them because the stood steadfast against it so they will lose another chunk of share.

Michael Dell just took over again because supposedly his predecessor did not "listen" to the wants and needs of their customers rather they dictated what their customers could have.

OK, there are other companies. Dell loses again.

Michael, Michael, Michael, first it was Intel only and now it's Microsoft only. When will you learn it's not what Dell wants that counts rather what the customer wants.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It might have been a few dozen people..
..each posting a few dozen times. If there were 1000's of people wanting Linux, Dell would have been selling its nSeries (the ones without an OS) like crazy and wouldn't have lost its crown to HP. I am sure the folks at Dell are smart enough to figure that out.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, because they've been smart enough to figure out
how their lousy offshored customer service has been driving customers away.
Posted by vm019302 (85 comments )
Link Flag
your missing the point
Dell buried the nSeries so far down that the only way you could find it is if you knew to go to www.dell.com/linux most people don't even know about Linux yet.

The other problem, is that when you price out the exact same computer with windoze and with Linux it is cheaper to buy the windoze version and play hell trying to figure out the drivers.

I just want a laptop that doesn't have broadcom drivers for wireless, a 17 inch screen and give it to me for cheaper then the extra $200 that a 15.4 inch monitor would have cost from the n series laptops!

Just make the drivers work! I'll take care of installing the OS if the hardware works. After all, Dell is a hardware company.
Posted by ordnancemarine (4 comments )
Link Flag
Yes, it's the Linux "zealot" factor,..
You now how these guys get virtually sexually excited at every instance of a big name vendor mentioning possible Linux support, they probably indulged in a frenzy of e-mail to the other losers they know living in their parents basement....
Posted by DrKevorkian (11 comments )
Link Flag
awfully simplistic
There are any number of reasons aside from lack of demand that Dell wouldn't be selling FreeDOS notebooks, let alone Linux ones.
Posted by Solarion (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Couldn't they have...
a section where you can select your OS, either a bar where you
select the one you want or a section with checkboxes so you can
select which ones you want, up to a limit.
Posted by FuturDreamz (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dell should have Linux as a choice
I think Dell should end up offering Linux as a choice for their desktop computers. Offer variety...come on.
Posted by pentium4forever (192 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hear, hear!
And they should offer consumer PCs and laptops with Linux, and not bury it so deep in the site that nobody knows it's there.

Dude, you're getting a Dell <i>that doesn't crash every 10 minutes</i>!
Posted by adsofiuasdfoi (12 comments )
Link Flag
Not worth the potential legal headaches
Since M$ is threatening to sue over patent infringement, it's understandable Dell would pass on selling computers with Linux pre-installed. The good news is if they sell computers with no O/S installed that are certified for various flavors of Linux, this is just as good. Most Linux users are savvy enough to load Linux no problem, and the best part, M$ is cut out of the picture!! Since it would be certified (or whatever they choose to call it) for given flavors of unix, you know you would have no problems with drivers or other hardware incompatibility. The reality is there wouldn't be enough money in it for Dell to risk a patent battle with M$ by pre-loading it.
Posted by C_G_K (169 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What potential?
Between SCO's failure in their laughable lawsuit and the fact that MS has been spreading FUD for years about Linux violating patents, yet not once filed a lawsuit(other then the financial backing of SCO successful attempt to sue themselves out of business) against any Linux company, what potential legal headaches exist?

If MS had even the slightest amount of proof, they would have filed already.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Re: Not worth the potential legal headaches
Yea, Microsoft is threatening to sue AGAIN.

As much as I've always liked Dell, I will say I've gone elsewhere for several systems that I knew would be running Linux.

At that point in time, I asked them point blank if they offered any systems that didn't force me to purchase Windows and they said no.

I've only bought laptops from them since, and I'm not familiar with the line they mentioned, but the "no operating system" option should be available on any system you buy from them (or anybody else) at any cost.

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Link Flag
Dell Linux
ChickenS***s are afraid of MS.
Posted by wwjunk (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give Dell A Break
Look, Dell is doing the smart thing from a business point of
view. They are taking thing one step at a time and trying to
avoid putting a lot of money into something that is not going to
work. Yes, offering preinstalled linux soounds like a great idea
but, is it going to be worth the financial investment for writing
drivers, writing new drive imaging programs, etc. Remember
that linux has a smaller home user base than OS X and OS X is
only like 5% of the market share. In addition to that, lots of
linux users like to build their own boxes to begin with which
cuts out dell entirely.

Wether it would cost them any leagal trouble to ship consumer
units without XP or Vista is a matter of how their contract with
MS is written. But, it would not supprise me if there is a penalty
or the loss of some sort of discount if they ship other OS's on
their boxes to end consumers (not including Universities and

I would not mind the option of having no OS as an option but
95% or better of the people that buy dells are happy with MS.
Personally, for less than a comparable configured dell, I can get
an Apple Computer running OS 10.4.8. So, better (or at least
equilivlent) hardware and a better OS for less money. Sounds
like a good deal to me. However, I know that I am not going to
convience anyone here so let the ripping and tearing at my post
Posted by beubanks7507 (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Disagree on a few points
"Is it going to be worth the financial investment for writing drivers, writing new drive imaging programs, etc."

Most of this already exists. The real cost will be in supporting Linux.

"n addition to that, lots of linux users like to build their own boxes to begin with which cuts out dell entirely."

Actually, most Linux users simply buy a PC and install Linux. And that's because no major vendors are offering or promoting Linux for the consumer market.

"95% or better of the people that buy dells are happy with MS."

I disagree. Microsoft's market share has more to do with marketing. I wouldn't say that 95% of Dell's customers are happy with Microsoft.
Posted by mn39202 (32 comments )
Link Flag
If companies that cater to the non-techie crowd like Dell would sell pre-installed and support Linux machines, you would see the market share of Linux skyrocket and the market of MS would decline. This is why Dell isn't going to do this. If these large OEM's finally had the courage to tell MS off, and also offer other alternatives, you would start seeing a very different and better computing landscape. It would also severely damage the monopoly position of MS and MS might actually have to start innovating. In the long run it would be better for everyone even MS. But MS fights anything that would require real work to maintain its market share.

People are not happy with MS, they just don't have a clue what else is out there and how much better of an experience Linux and OSX is over the outdated Vista.

Saying people are happy with MS is like saying that someone who has only eaten McDonald's crap their whole lives(and what a short life it would be) are happy with the food "quality".
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Apple + Intel + Linux
Apple + Intel + Linux
It was once unthinkable that Apple would switch to Intel CPUs, but Apple's engineers with NeXT roots have been developing OS X (then called OpenStep) on Intel hardware longer than they have on PowerPC.

When Steve Jobs started NeXT, he soon realized that no existing OS matched his vision and determined that the Mach kernel (a variant of Unix) would be the best foundation for his new object-oriented operating system. That was 1986, and the NeXT computers ran their Unix-derived OS on Motorola 68030 CPUs - the same used in Macs.

In 1991, Linus Torvalds began writing the Linux kernel, a Unix-like operating system designed for the popular, powerful Intel 80386 CPU. The first version of Linux was released in Sept. 1991, and since then programmers around the world have contributed to extending and improving Linux. This is arguably the most extensive and successful open source project to date.

By 1992 NeXT has begun porting NeXTstep to Intel CPUs, and there was another project to port it to PowerPC. However, that project was halted when NeXTstep 3.1 (a.k.a. NeXTstep 486) was released in 1993.

NeXT's next project was separating the rest of the operating system from the kernel, which helped create OpenStep.

NeXT was committed to the Mach kernel five years before Linus Torvalds began his OS, and it took a while before Linux began to approach the maturity of other Unix-like operating systems, so there would have been no reason for NeXT to consider switching from Mach.

In the 14 years since the first Linux release, Linux has grown into a full-fledged operating system that has been tweaked and optimized by a host of programmers - and their work reviewed by other programmers. In fact, Linux is so robust that IBM has embraced it.

Now let's put the pieces together. NeXT already learned how to put their interface on both Mach and Solaris kernels. Linux has grown into the most popular non-Microsoft operating system on x86 hardware, but it's held back by dozens of distributions and two different GUIs.

Mach: OS X's Achilles' Heel
What if Apple were to build the equivalent of OpenStep for Linux? That is, take the whole of OS X and build it around a Linux kernel instead of Mach. (This would be the exact opposite of MkLinux, Apple's project to build a PowerPC version of Linux on the Mach microkernel that Apple abandoned after they acquired NeXT.)

The problem with Mach is that microkernels are inefficient because of all the communication taking place between different parts of the operating system. A monolithic kernel is more efficient because processes don't have to move in and out of the kernel. The current Wikipedia article puts it thus:

Microkernels generally underperform in comparison to traditional designs, sometimes dramatically. This is due in large part to the overhead of moving in and out of the kernel, a context switch, in order to move data between the various applications and servers. It was originally believed that careful tuning could reduce this overhead dramatically, but by the mid-90s most researchers had given up.

It seems sensible to move OS X to a more efficient kernel than Mach (Apple has been making Mach more efficient since 10.0 shipped), but there's one big obstacle: Avie Tevanian, one of the developers of the Mach kernel, worked at NeXT and came to Apple with Steve Jobs. Egos and personalities seem to mean a lot at Apple these days, so unless Tevanian were to become convinced that microkernel architecture is hampering OS X and then convince Jobs of that truth, change is unlikely.

We can dream, can't we? Dreams of the best kernel and the best GUI working together. An OS and installers that are truly ready for the masses. No more beach balls of death. Real competition for Microsoft Windows present and future.

The transition to Intel would be the perfect time to make the switch.
The Only Reason Why I'm Posting this is because I want Steve Jobs to become the richest man in the world whether he wants to or not. And what OS Am I Using to post this? Unfortunately Windows Vista! You want to know why? Because although I'm truly disgusted with every feature of Vista that Microsoft has stolen from apple, I have no choice at the moment. Linux Lacks a GOOD Desktop GUI. If Apple embraces linux soon, can you imagine the huge Respect it would get from the everyday GIGANTIC GROWING LINUX COMMUNITY! Corporation would buy the Hybrid OS by the bussels because they would save a bundle. Microsoft would poop in its pants. I don't know if anyone is doing this, But I will be starting a new website soon to petition Apple to convert to Linux.

P.S. I also plan on petitioning apple to officially allow its system to run on an AMD processecor.
Posted by enriquezrene (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.