Dell does Ubuntu, but the sales staff do not know it

happygeek 0 Tallied Votes 731 Views Share

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...

Sturm 270 Veteran Poster

You really can't blame dell for the anti-competition practices Microsoft engages in, can you?

DimaYasny 180 Godmode enabled Team Colleague Featured Poster

linux is much harder to support, ans support people for linux cost much more than simple windows guys.
also, just like mcdonalds with the "careful, hot!" thing written on it's coffee cups, del is trying to make sure whoever is buying a linux machine will not come back complaining he can'r run his games or software there.

cutepinkbunnies 4 Junior Poster

I don't think its Dell's responsibility to cram linux down the throat of its consumers, especially considering profits are greater by installing a MS Operating System.

As indicated earlier Dell will incur additional support costs with negative returns to scale and also risk damaging their reputation by soliciting Ubuntu to unaware consumers.

Also consider all the small businesses (even micro-businesses) that purchased PC's from Dell and even noticed the "Dell Recommends Microsoft XP Professional" when configuring their PC, yet chose to go with the home edition anyway and ended up repurchasing copies of XP Pro once their businesses grew to join an Active Directory Domain.

In my opinion, I think Dell was gracious enough to give Ubuntu a shot here considering the confusion and business risk it will create. The last thing I'd want is for Dell to suggest Ubuntu to my grandmother when she calls up for a new PC.

Can you imagine what their support database looks like after the initial release?

#1 Q/A is probably something like:
Q: "Where is Word?"
A: "You purchased a machine with Ubuntu, Word does not run on Ubuntu"

If Dell decides to aggressively push Ubuntu and you really want to make some money buy stock in whatever company contracts Dell's 800 lines. :P

I don't really agree with the "simple windows guys" comment, but I'm not about to get into that...especially since most call center Tech 1's have very limited computer experience and are reading from a script anyway.

AndyJ 0 Newbie Poster

I have recently ordered a Laptop from Dell with Ubuntu. Inspiron 9400n upgraded to dual-core and 1gb ram. Was a good price at just under £400. Equal to the Vista laptops and any pcworld special. I would say that they turn out a little more expensive simply because Dell hasnt started doing its random deals on them yet as its a new product.

I found the system quite easy to find. You can get to it by simply selecting a home laptop from the main menu, then there is an open source category. Of course all the time Dell recommends Vista is thrown at you, along with warnings and links back to the vista machines. I think thats acceptable though. Linux isnt really quite ready yet for novice users, but it is getting close. Its good that they state you should only buy Linux if you know what you are doing.

That said i showed the liveCD of Ubuntu 7.04 to a few people and have converted them from vista to linux in a few minutes. I think the tide will turn. Dell has done a good job just putting the things up. And if they are faithful i am sure they will see the sales come in.

As for support, i had a few issues with my order. Despite the naturally annoying service it was very helpful. The problem was fixed and, while they may not be up to speed on Ubuntu fully yet, they are trying.

All in all i thin Dell hit it right, offering the product but not forcing it. Managing to hit the market without ruining their reputation.. Its a bit of a rocky start (2 week delay on all laptop orders ?????) but i think it will blossom once they get a few more products in the range and a good base of techies up to speed.

colinnwn 0 Newbie Poster

Do you have any support for your claim that Linux is harder to support and more expensive?

Specifically Ubuntu should be as easy to support as Windows since most everything can be done graphically. As cutepinkbunnies pointed out, consumer level support is usually by script with non well-trained (eg cheap) technicians, scripts could easily be rewritten for Ubuntu. Linux in my experience tends to behave, misbehave, and be fixable in more consistent modes, whereas Windows can have a problem that is generally fixable one way, but sometimes must be resolved in a multitude of different ways or by trial-and-error. Consistent failure modes could reduce the amount of time and escalations spent on the phone with technicians.

Here is an article that does discuss some findings on Linux vs. Windows TCO. I am sure there are better ones also.,14179,2907876,00.html

That said, I also agree for the time being Dell should be careful about how they market Linux. I wouldn't want them recommending it to my grandmother without careful consultation yet either. Too many people still don't really understand what an operating system is and how that relates to what applications you can run.

cutepinkbunnies 4 Junior Poster


I was just stating the returns to scale aren't going to be the same for the linux support due to the trial and error involved until they get things unscrambled. It has nothing to do with linux or windows or TCO for that matter, only that for the next year or two Ubuntu is going to be a real headache for Dell. If they were selling Ubuntu machines all these years and decided to offer Windows machines, Windows would be a hassle for them too.

Either way I'm sure they'll get things straight in the long run and I agree with the previous comments regarding Dell's mix of not pushing Ubuntu but still offering it.

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