As DaniWeb reported back in February, the trouble with asking what your customers want is that they have a habit of letting you know in no uncertain terms. When Dell did that at their IdeaStorm site, the masses yelled ‘what we want is Linux pre-installed’ and the Michael Dell yelled back ‘we are listening’ and then it all went very quiet indeed.
The official Dell response included such snippets as “there is no single customer preference for a distribution of Linux” and “we don't want to pick one distribution and alienate users with a preference for another.”
Until now, that is. Dell has announced that it will be selling certain consumer PCs with Ubuntu pre-installed and by so doing admitting that
Linux is actually ready for the mainstream consumer big time.
Something that Michael Dell himself has known for quite some while, considering he himself uses a Dell Precision M90 laptop running Ubuntu 7.04!
But the real news here is not that Linux is hitting the radar of Joe Consumer for the first time rather than flying under it for the benefit of the geek crowd alone. No, the real news comes in the fact that for the first time your average consumer is being given a real choice over OS rather than having to decide between PC and Mac hardware in order to get flexibility over operating system software. If this does not give the whole PC marketplace a boost then that market is dead in the water.
Yes, older readers may recall we have been here before with OS/2, but this time the Windows alternative is a real one with a valid place on the desktop. It is good news for everyone. Except, perhaps, Novell and Red Hat considering that both lost out to Ubuntu in the which distribution for Dell stakes. In the short term this could hit both hard, although the longer view looks more promising as increasing numbers of consumer get turned on to Linux. Or perhaps that should be IF they get turned on to Linux.
And that remains a big if. After all, an alternative OS is all well and good but only if there is a solid base of commercial software available to the average consumer, with an ease of installation that can match Windows. Then there is the small matter of cost, which Dell has managed to avoid up to now. We have no idea as to how much cheaper, if at all, an identically specced Dell Ubuntu machine will be compared to the Windows version. Heck, we have no idea which Dell machines will be offered with the Linux option come to think of it. The danger is that Dell will seize a bottom line opportunity and conveniently forget that Ubuntu is free whereas Windows is not.
If they get it right, and a Linux Dell equates to a cheaper Dell, then Microsoft could face its most serious bit of competition for the longest time.