|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Dell GNU Desktops, would make a good Journal Article
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Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Dell GNU Desktops, would make a good Journal Article
From: Ruben Safir
Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2006 21:54:43 -0500
X-Mailer: Evolution 2.2.1
Feb. 27, 2006
Last Thursday, when I wrote about Dell's new Linux desktop, was one of
the most frustrating days of my professional life. My eWEEK colleague
John Spooner and I tried our best to get Dell to confess that they
really had released an honest-to-God Linux desktop.
But Dell simply wouldn't do it.
I have been following Linux since Linus Torvalds was a graduate student,
and Dell since Michael Dell moved his computer sales operation out of
his dorm room. I think they've done something new here.
Everyone I talked with, including Dan "The Best Operating System Analyst
on the Planet" Kusnetzky, thought Dell was doing something new. The only
folks who disagreed live in Austin, Texas and work for Dell.
What is going on here?
Why isn't Dell, as one mid-level IT executive I spoke with said,
"shouting it from the roof tops?"
OK, so I do get part of why Dell isn't proclaiming the news. Dell has
always been about sales volume. They want to sell lots and lots and ...
you get the idea. Linux desktops aren't ready to sell hundreds of
thousands of units -- yet.
It may be a different story next year as people try to figure out what's
what with Microsoft's six different major versions of Vista.
Still, what's the harm today in just saying, "Yes, we do offer Linux on
Dell once offered a Linux desktop back at the turn of the century. Then,
there just wasn't enough interest in Linux desktops for them to make a
go of it.
I can see that. I was using Linux on a desktop then. But really, in
those days, only serious Unix and Linux geeks were running it that way.
It's a different story now. Today, the Linux desktop is poised to make a
serious jump upward. Unfortunately, Dell isn't helping anywhere near as
much as it could.
So, why aren't they?
Didn't Michael Dell himself invest almost a $100 million in Red Hat?
Why, yes, yes he did.
Doesn't Dell already have partnerships in place with Red Hat? And
Didn't Dell agree to let Mandriva SA sell the Latitude 110L laptop with
its Linux preinstalled in France? Yes, again.
Doesn't Dell have a Linux community site to help Dell owners use Linux?
So why did Dell refuse -- no matter how we tried to word the question --
to admit that they really had moved a bit further toward offering Linux
on the desktop?
Or, better still, why doesn't Dell just start offering one Linux
distribution as an option on their complete desktop line?
The reason is that, when push comes to shove, "Dell recommends the use
of Windows XP Professional" on its desktops.
So I, for one, think that the real reason Dell keeps the Linux desktop
at arm's reach is that it doesn't want to tick off Microsoft.
In theory, Microsoft can't strong-arm its OEM (original equipment
manufacturer) partners into bundling Windows or other applications the
way it used to when Joachim Kempin ran Microsoft's OEM show. But boy, it
sure seems like a lot of the big -- and not-so-big -- vendors don't want
to touch Linux with a 10-foot pole.
At least one partner, Tangent Inc., an OEM based in Burlingame, Calif.,
has come right out and said that Microsoft charges exorbitant fees from
OEMs, distributors, and resellers for its operating system licenses.
Do you know what else Tangent claims? That Microsoft entered into
restrictive agreements with OEMs and system builders that limit or
eliminate their ability to feature non-Microsoft products. The company
filed an antitrust lawsuit in US District Court Feb. 14 against
Microsoft, alleging anticompetitive behavior in several areas (digital
rights management (DRM), server software, and others). Hmmm ...
I really don't know why Dell, or any of the other first- or
second-string vendors, won't support Linux on the desktop. I don't have
Michael Dell's home phone number and he doesn't have mine.
I do know though that -- even if you don't believe that Linux is better
than Windows -- from a purely business viewpoint, offering Linux makes
sense. A Linux offering would let vendors differentiate their PCs from
each other. A Linux offering would cut their operating system costs.
In short, I can make a good business case for desktop Linux being
offered at least as an alternative by any PC maker.
So why, except for small OEMs, aren't they doing it?
I, for one, am going to be watching the Tangent case closely. I hope the
Department of Justice is watching as well.
Otherwise, Linux on the desktop may suffer Netscape's fate on the
desktop -- ground down not by any sound technical or business reason,
but by the unfair forces of a monopoly.
-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols