|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] More on GNU Desktops
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Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] More on GNU Desktops
From: Ruben Safir
Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2006 21:55:34 -0500
X-Mailer: Evolution 2.2.1
Mar. 07, 2006
Michael Dell, chairman of Dell Inc. believes in offering Linux on the
desktop, server, and workstation. What he doesn't believe in, for now,
is giving Linux full support on the desktop. In an exclusive interview,
Dell explained his company's Linux desktop strategy to
DesktopLinux.com's Steven J. Vaughan Nichols.
"People are always asking us to support Linux on the desktop, but the
question is: 'Which Linux are you talking about?'," Dell asked.
"If we say we like Ubuntu, then people will say we picked the wrong one.
If we say we like and support Ubuntu, Novell, Red Hat, and Xandros, then
someone would ask us, 'Why don't you support Mandriva? The challenge we
have with picking one is that we think we'd disenchant the other
"It's not that there are too many Linux desktop distributions," Dell
said, "it's that they're all different, they all have supporters, and
none of them can claim a majority of the market."
"If you look at DistroWatch, you'll see zillions of these distributions.
Which one should we do? And, everyone keeps telling us that they want
different distributions. So, our conclusion is to do them all and let
the customer decide."
So it is, Dell continued, that "on the desktop we have the nSeries, so
that the user can pick the Linux he wants."
These are the OptiPlex nSeries for business users, which start at a
price of $453 without a display, and the lower-end Dimension nSeries for
small business users, which start with a list-price of $359 without a
monitor. Dell doesn't install an operating system on either system.
Instead, the company supplies a copy of the open-source FreeDOS
operating system with each PC.
"These systems do come with hardware support," Dell said, but "we can't
support all 300 Linux distributions."
It's not like Dell didn't try a Linux desktop, Dell added. The Austin,
Texas-based company "tried that with Red Hat on the OptiPlex and
Dimension lines, but we had too many people not buying and saying we
picked the wrong one." By 2001, Dell was no longer offering a Linux
desktop to its usual retail customers.
Where Dell does offer a desktop computer with Linux is in its Dell
Precision nSeries low-end workstation line. These come with RHEL WS 4
(Red Hat Enterprise Linux workstation 4) preinstalled.
While close enough to PCs to be called PCs, these systems have an
entirely different target market. Instead of the small business and home
market that the OptiPlex and Dimension lines are aimed at, the Precision
nSeries "is meant for scientific and engineering users." In short, these
boxes are meant for the traditional Unix workstation market.
Dell will, however, still install a customer's choice of Linuxes on
custom factory orders of 50 or more PCs.
Dell emphasized that his company is not leading Linux, it's tracking
Linux. So, it's not going to pick one desktop distribution and try to
make it number one. Thus, while "Ubuntu is now the most popular desktop
distribution on Dell PCs, it may not be a year from now."
However, he also said, "We've had number of communications with Ubuntu.
Most of those have been about giving Ubuntu better driver support, but
we're open to all those things."
In the meantime, the firm's sales of its nSeries PCs have been going
well. "NSeries demand is growing rapidly," said Dell. "It's a global
business with sales throughout the world. Its growth is pretty close to
the market penetration of Linux, which is about 1 and half-percent of
the desktop market."
In the meantime, Dell continues to support Linux and to encourage its
hardware vendors to support the operating system.
"We work with our vendors a lot, and with the different ingredients they
bring, to make sure we have good Linux driver support."
In addition, the company continues to grow its Linux support operations.
"We actually already have a pretty significant Linux support team
today," he added.
So, what would it take though to get Dell to offer fully-supported Linux
on its complete line of desktops?
Dell replied, "We love Linux, and we're doing our best to support the
Linux community. We see lots of opportunity there. If the Linux desktops
could converge at their cores, such a common platform would make it
easier to support. Or, if there was a leading or highly preferred
version that a majority of users would want, we'd preload it."
In the end, "we see [the Linux desktop] as a customer-driven activity.
If customers want it, well, Dell will give it to them."
One company has not played a role in Dell's Linux decisions. "Microsoft
has not talked to us about Linux. If they did, I wouldn't care. It's
none of their business," concluded Dell.
-- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols