According to a report at The Register it would appear that Dell is making life difficult for UK customers who want to buy a Dell PC running Linux. Being a snooping journalist myself, I went to have a look for myself and indeed it is a lot harder to buy a Linux powered Dell than all the hype, fuelled in no small part by the Dell PR machine of course, would lead you to believe.
I particularly like the way that you are given the impression that Dell really doesn't want to sell you a Linux machine, with plenty of negative commentary when you do finally discover the information hidden away in the darkest corners of the UK site. Want to know more about Ubuntu? No problem, and the most important thing to note, according to Dell, is that when you choose it "you don't get a Windows operating system." If that hard sell didn't persuade you to go with Linux, how about the advice that it's not compatible with lots of other software, maybe that will help?
As The Register says "you might be forgiven for expecting the same even-handed approach from Dell to its Vista-based machines" but you would be wrong, because there are no similar warnings about software compatibility, just lots of loud chest beating in favour of Microsoft. And that was exactly what the reporter experienced when calling the Dell helpdesk to get advice on an OS for a Dell machine. A sales support person is quoted as saying that most people want Vista or XP, and eventually came up with an option for a Red Hat Inspiron 530, but no mention of Ubuntu at all. Oh, and for the record, the PC with Red Hat would 'only' cost £20 ($40) more than the same machine if it were supplied with Vista.
I can reveal that it actually possible to buy a Dell Ubuntu machine, you just have to go to the right Dell site. In this case that would be Dell Ubuntu for UK consumers, for example. It would be nice if Dell made a bit more of a song and dance about it of course, I found it by going to the Ubuntu site first and following the links from there. Personally, I would be inclined to buy the Vista version for £20 less and then install my own Linux distro and save a lot more money in the process.
Of course, let's not be too hard on Dell here. It does have to make a profit on its machines, and given the volume if sells the margin on each is slim. You can be sure the volume discounts it gets from Microsoft are generous, and it still has to provide support for the Linux machines it sells no matter how much the OS costs. Training staff to deal with those calls carries a cost, and this will be passed on to the consumer, that is the way of the world. I still salute Dell for bringing Linux, and choice, into the mix. But I would salute Dell more if it made that choice a little easier to make...