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January 12, 2004

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MozillaQuest Op-Ed

Does Dell Support Linux?

Mike Angelo -- 12 January 2004 (C) -- Page 2

Article Index
To learn why Linux is so much a better choice than is Microsoft Windows, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

To learn how to run MS Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

Dell's Response

MozillaQuest Magazine discussed this matter via e-mail with Dell spokespeople Carmen Maverick and Stephen Wanless starting at the end of December 2003 and continuing through 9 January 2004. The general gist of their comments is that Dell supports Linux server-wise, but not client-wise, and that what the salespeople had told us in December was not a correct statement of Dell policy.

Stephen Wanless: You (and your friend) must be trying to purchase a client (desktop/laptop) product with Linux. While we offer Linux on all of our server range (Dell PowerEdge servers) we don't offer Linux as a factory installed option on our clients with the exception of the Dell Precision line of Workstations.

Stephen Wanless: For customers looking for a desktop without a Microsoft OS installed we offer the 'N' series of products. I believe you can install Linux on those without affecting the warranty.

Carmen Maverick: We will get with our sales team to make sure they have the right information. (I'm guessing you called the home sales number?)

MozillaQuest Magazine: We used the 800-433-5904 number and followed the menuing for home/consumer desktops. If your sales people are not following company policy it would be good to make sure they do follow company policy.

Carmen Maverick: Dell definitely supports our customers who want to install the software of choice on their Dell systems.

MozillaQuest Magazine: This is not what is coming across from your sales people.

Carmen Maverick: We sell a wide variety of hardware and software through our Software and Peripherals (S&P) store. Customer-installed hardware and software -- including operating systems -- does not void the Dell system warranty.

MozillaQuest Magazine: That makes sense. However, this is *not* what your salespeople are saying.

Carmen Maverick: Generally, the third party manufacturers provide warranty and support for their products sold through the Dell S&P channel. (However, Dell does offer optional services and support for S&P products.) As Steve notes, Dell Precision workstations are currently the only client product line that we offer with Linux pre-installed (Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS), based on customer demand.

Those conversations took place at the end of December 2003.

Dell's Anti-Linux Sales Practices

As part of the legwork for writing this story, this writer checked with Dell's telephone sales people on 9 January 2004 to see if things had changed since December 2003. Used that same 800 number.

Going through the "home" menuing, the salesperson reached on 9 January 2004 said a user installing Linux does not void the hardware warranty. Apparently as Carmen said at the end of December, they got with their sales team to make sure they have the right information -- at least as to user installation of Linux and other software not voiding the hardware warranty.

However, when asked about getting a Dell system with Linux, the 9 January 2004 salesperson said that Dell does not sell systems with Linux. I asked her if I could get a system without Microsoft Windows and she said no.

I kept pushing the 9 January 2004 salesperson about the GNU-Linux issues and finally she said some things to the effect that her division does not sell computers with Linux or without MS-Windows -- and that maybe one might be able to get a refurbished computer from Dell without MS-Windows. Even then, her finally letting on to that meager crumb was a far cry from enthusiastic or voluntarily cooperation. It had to be prodded out of her.

It was only after some heavy duty pushing (pushing based on my knowing what Carmen Maverick and Stephen Wanless had previously told me regarding Dell's "N" series and PowerEdge series) that the 9 January 2004 salesperson let on to the possibility of buying a refurbished computer from Dell without Windows. That pushing is something an ordinary caller likely would not know to do. Likely, an ordinary caller would passively allow the Dell salesperson to push the caller into taking a Windows-based computer rather than a Linux-based computer.

The 9 January 2004 salesperson's conduct falls woefully short of letting a caller know about the Dell computers with Linux and/or the Dell computers without MS Windows. All the Dell salespeople contacted in December 2003 said that you could not get a Dell computer with Linux pre-installed.

That seems to be the same impression one gets when looking at the Dell Dimension Desktops stuff on Dell's Web site and the pages under that, including the customizing stuff. Please see Figure 1.

Figure 1. Screen shot of part of Dell Dimension Desktops Web page. Please note the Dell recommends Microsoft Windows XP rhetoric at the top of this shot and the only operating system listed in the product descriptions is Windows XP.

Also called that same Dell 800 number on 9 January 2004 and followed the menuing for business computers. Asked the salesperson there if I could get a system with Linux and he said no.

Went to the Dell Desktops Web page and did not find anything with Linux on it until I worked my way down to the Dell Precision Workstations.

So here is a problem. Although Dell spokespeople Carmen Maverick and Stephen Wanless both say that Dell does have systems with Linux, and if you hunt around enough you can find that to be so on the Dell Web site, Dell sales people still are saying that you cannot get a Dell system with Linux, or a Dell system without MS Windows.

To whatever extent Dell at the topmost levels might say Dell supports Linux, its sales people are not supporting Linux. They certainly are not pro-Linux. And if anything, they are anti-Linux.

Dell Promotes Windows but Does Not Promote Linux

For example, the Dell sales people we contacted do not let callers who ask about Linux know what Dell machines do come with Linux. Instead they tell such callers that the callers cannot get Linux pre-installed on Dell computers and they tell callers that the callers cannot get Linux instead of Windows on Dell computers. They do not even tell callers that callers can get Microsoft-free Dell computers.

Moreover, on the one hand, Dell salespeople, if not Dell top brass too, appear to be anti-Linux. And on the other hand, Dell is very pro-Microsoft and pro-Windows. There are Dell recommends Windows XP messages all over the Dell Web site. Please see Figure 1, 2, and 3.


Figure 2. Screen shot of part of Home & Home Office Web page. Please note the Dell recommends Microsoft Windows XP rhetoric at the middle-right of this shot.

Figure 3. Screen shot of part of Dell Desktops Web page. Please note the Dell recommends Microsoft Windows XP rhetoric at the middle-right of this shot.


Apparently Dell does offer pre-installed Linux on what it calls its server line of computers but not on what it calls its client line of computers. However, as mentioned above our legwork indicates that Dell's salespeople do not let callers know that.

If Dell really does support the GNU-Linux operating system, then why does it not offer it on most if not all of its systems? It should be a very easy thing for Dell to do.

We asked the Dell spokespeople about this and got more lame PR spin and rhetoric that does not squarely address the issues.

The gist of Dell's response is that the demand for desktop Linux, or Linux on desktop computers, is not there. That might make sense if Dell inventoried computer systems and could get stuck with unsold computers if it were to pre-install Linux on its desktop and laptop systems. However --

Dell does not inventory computers but rather assembles them to order. That assembly includes installing an operating system and software at assembly time. Thus, we see no reason why Dell cannot install a good desktop Linux OS, or any GNU-Linux OS for that matter, at system assembly time as easily as it can install MS Windows XP.

Moreover, we see no reason why Dell cannot and should not let customers know right off the bat that they have a choice of GNU-Linux or MS-Windows with any Dell computer system.

  • See Dell's Response on Page 3 ----->

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