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|SUBJECT ||Re: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] BusinessWeek.com: Customers to Dell: Give Us Linux!
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Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2007 20:58:01 -0500
From: Ruben Safir
Subject: Re: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] BusinessWeek.com: Customers to Dell: Give Us Linux!
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On Wed, Feb 28, 2007 at 01:11:31PM -0500, einker wrote:
> News Analysis February 26, 2007, 12:01AM EST
> Customers to Dell: Give Us Linux! The troubled computer maker sought input
> from users, but complying with the most popular online suggestions could
> worsen its woes
> by Aaron Ricadela
> When computer maker Dell asked customers how to spice up its products and
> improve service, the flood of responses may have provided more feedback than
> the company bargained for.
> Thousands of computer buyers have weighed in on a site Dell set up Feb. 16
> to solicit opinions on everything from product design to marketing to
> technical support. The resounding response: Give us more software and other
> features based on open-source code, including the Linux operating system.
> Heeding the requests won't be easy for the PC maker, which ousted Chief
> Executive Kevin Rollins on Jan. 31 and again named founder Michael Dell CEO
> in an attempt to regain market share, improve product quality, resolve
> customer support problems, and recover some of the financial mojo Dell
> exuded until recent years (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/1/07, "Is Dell Too Big
> for Michael
> Well, Since You Askedâ€¦
> On one hand, the customers who've posted 1,600 suggestions to Dell's
> IdeaStorm site and the tens of thousands more who voted to second those
> ideas represent the savviest edge of the PC market. They're consumers who
> identify trends and influence other buyers. On the other hand, incorporating
> the vox populi into business decisions could add costs and hamper customer
> support, worsening ills already afflicting Dell.
> "We certainly expected to see some interesting stuff, and it hasn't failed
> to deliver," a Dell spokesman says of the online forum, which harnesses
> tools common to the emerging user-generated Web, asking customers to blog
> about potential solutions to Dell's problems or vote for their favorite
> posts. So far, more than 120,000 people have visited the site, Dell says
> (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/23/07, "Hack This Product,
> The most popular ideas? Nos. 1 and 2 on the list: Factory-install Linux on
> consumer desktops and notebooks, and preload OpenOffice and other
> open-source productivity programs. The fifth most popular is a
> recommendation that Dell replace Microsoft's Internet Explorer with the
> open-source Firefox Web browser. "They're very high-end users and very
> knowledgeable," says Dell's spokesman.
> Making Linux Consumer-Friendly
> What's less clear is whether the outcry for Linux reflects demand in the
> market that goes broader than a vocal group of open-source advocates. Even
> high-profile Linux proponents admit the operating system isn't ready for
> mass-market use. The system is gaining traction in corporate data centers
> where low costs and the ability to play suppliers against each another are
> paramount. But Linux has been too arcane to control, incompatible with
> popular hardware, and bereft of popular programs for most home PC users.
> "Linux has a long way to go before it has the same market demand as
> Windows," says Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, which
> promotes the software as an alternative to Microsoft's
> Windows, pays the salary of Linux creator Linus Torvalds, and counts Dell
> among its members. "Dell's a pretty smart company and they are responsive to
> their customers," Zemlin says. But to make Linux for consumers fly, the
> vendor would need to invest in engineering to ensure the software works with
> popular graphics chips and wireless modems, sign expanded support contracts
> with Linux suppliers like Red Hat
> and Novell
> or train its own customer service reps on open-source technologies. "That
> would help them build a better box," he says.
> Dell says it's already listening. In a Feb. 23 posting on IdeaStorm, the
> company said it's working with Novell to certify its business desktops,
> notebooks, and workstations for compatibility with Linux, and is working
> with other Linux distributors about additional certifications. A company
> spokesman says Red Hat is among those distributors. Dell also said it will
> make it easier for PC buyers to forgo preloaded programs, and uninstall them
> once they get the machine.
> Open-Source a Risky Innovation
> Dell, once the top supplier of PCs, has seen its market share slip, profits
> fall, and reputation slide amid rising costs, quality mishaps, and missed
> market trends. Hewlett-Packard
> has become the top supplier of retail PCs, and Dell's lackluster products
> seem out of step in a market where Apple
> has compelled vendors to pay attention to design. Customers have also
> complained about poor support and technical problems. That helped prompt
> Michael Dell to retake the chief executive reins, and he's hired new
> deputies to help turn out compelling products and clamp down on costs (see
> BusinessWeek.com, 2/16/07, "Dell's New Blood: Cannon, Now
> Dell reports quarterly earnings Mar. 1.
> Bear Stearns
> analyst Andrew Neff wrote in a Feb. 19 research report that a key to
> increased margins at Dell will be "focusing on innovative products that
> customers want." But putting customers' Linux ideas into action could also
> prove expensive. "PC makers tend to be very conservative about what they put
> on these machines," says Paul DeGroot, an analyst at consulting company
> Directions on Microsoft. Take tech support. If Dell offers Linux as a
> standard choice on consumer PCs, the number of calls to its support centers
> could rise. "After the second or third call, they've lost money on the
> machine," he says.
> Then there's the effect such a move would have on Dell's relationship with
> Microsoft. IdeaStorm bloggers called for Dell to ship copies of OpenOffice,
> free software that includes word processing, spreadsheet, and other
> applications. "It can save you a pile of money" compared with Microsoft
> Office, which can cost $400 or $500 depending on the edition, DeGroot says.
> But Microsoft has been Dell's dominant operating system and applications
> provider since the company got its start in the 1980s. Microsoft has also
> taken steps to blunt the appeal of OpenOffice and other open-source suites.
> In January, Microsoft made the $150 Home and Student edition of its new
> Office 2007 suite available to all customersâ€”not just education buyers.
> Dell Needs More than Marketing
> The groundswell on IdeaStorm isn't Dell's first brush with Linux. The
> company ships the system on its business servers and engineering
> workstations, and lets corporate IT departments install it on some PCs. But
> Dell stopped installing Linux on consumer PCs and notebooks five years ago,
> and it may not be in a rush to do so again. "It's something that you
> wouldn't tread lightly into," says its spokesman.
> Yet it's also clear Dell needs to do something to repair frayed
> relationships with customers. The company on Feb. 16 launched a feature on
> its Web site where users can upload videosâ€”YouTube styleâ€”of what they
> did on
> their Dell PCs. Last year, the company launched a site that includes videos
> of its chief executive at industry functions. On IdeaStorm, there's even
> been a suggestion for Michael Dell to start a blog, a la Sun Microsystems (
> SUNW ) CEO
> Jonathan Schwartz. Better marketing is a start. But as Dell's response to
> the Linux clamor shows, it may need to adjust its products, too, to give the
> people what they want.
> Ricadela is a writer for
> BusinessWeek.comin Silicon Valley.
> Evan M. Inker
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"> I'm an engineer. I choose the best tool for the job, politics be damned.<
You must be a stupid engineer then, because politcs and technology have been attacted at the hip since the 1st dynasty in Ancient Egypt. I guess you missed that one."