Dell keeps its Ubuntu promise (and iMagritte)

Celebrate Towel Day by reading Friday's IT Blogwatch: in which Dell finally starts selling Ubuntu Linux PCs. Not to mention René Magritte as you've never seen him before...

Dell's Lionel Menchaca is all of a tizzy:

It’s finally here. Later today, Dell will offer U.S customers three different systems with Ubuntu 7.04 installed: the XPS 410n and Dimension E520n desktops and the Inspiron E1505n notebook. These systems are now available at today. Starting price for the E520n desktop and the E1505n notebook is $599; the XPS 410n starts at $849.


Hardware support will come from Dell. Beyond that, users can turn to the Linux section of the Dell Community Forum for help and also get the latest updates from our Linux team at Users also have fee-based options for operating system support through Canonical, including 30-day Get Started, One-year Basic and One-year Standard.


To the worldwide Linux community, I wanted to thank you for all your support. Linux-related posts are the three most viewed posts since we launched the blog back in July 2006 ... Thanks for giving us a chance to show what Dell 2.0 is about. While this is a milestone that a lot of us will remember, it’s just the beginning—plenty more to come.

Brad Linder adds:

So why is Dell getting so much attention for giving consumers a choice of operating systems? Because Linux has become a lot more user friendly in the past few years, with some great desktop software for the Gnome and KDE graphical user interfaces. But most users aren't going to purchase a PC that comes preloaded with Windows and then futz with it, installing a new operating system and then struggling to make sure all the drivers and programs work.

While there are high end computer manufacturers and retailers out there who are already shipping systems pre-loaded with Linux, Dell is a consumer-oriented company. The company's decision to offer three Linux systems may wind up just being a nod to the computer geeks who flooded their request line with recommendations. But it's also possible that the move will legitimize Linux as an option for all home and office users who visit Dell's website looking for a new PC.

Oh, and did we mention that those three new Linux PCs seem to be about $50 to $100 cheaper than comparable PCs pre-loaded with Windows?

But Scott Gilbertson isn't impressed:

Not as much of a discount as seems fitting, but I am willing to concede that Dell probably recoups quite a bit of money on all the junkware that gets packaged with Windows installations — AOL specials, etc.

Arguably, not having to remove all the junkware is itself a significant savings, if not of money, than at least the time spent removing it all.

Stephen De Chellis ponders drivers:

The only potential problem (short term) is the lack of mature drivers for some new hardware. Dell has said that they will only offer hardware that is supported by mature drivers. This should only be a short term problem because once these PCs begin to sell Dell will be able to apply pressure to the hardware companies to put out Linux drivers.

Now, some in the GNU Linux community do not like closed source drivers no matter how good they are but I don’t think the community as a whole feels that way. Like me, most people just want things to work. Most Linux users also do not need to go all the way down and hack source code. It’s nice to know it is there but not always needed.

Louis Ramirez and Matt Buchanan noticed the other Dell news, too:

It's a busy week for Dell, who's launching both their Ubuntu and third-party pickings ... Starting June 10, Dell's first Wal-Mart offering, the Dimension E521, will roll out into more than 3,000 locations. Naturally, both more computers and more retail partners will follow, since Dell sees third-party retail as one its major new avenues to growth. Of course, the name of the game is audience expansion, so it's no coincidence that we're seeing the fruits of "Dell 2.0" close to its Wally World debut as it grasps for consumers on both sides of the traditional Dell spectrum of sales.

Brian White looks for the money angle:

What is Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) up to? The PC maker is set to report earnings next week on the May 31 ... Is the company set to turn in another dismal quarter amid market share losses in the consumer PC market? Possibly. Is the company ready to make a comeback? It needs to, desperately. Is Dell headed for retail again, almost two decades after leaving that space to only sell direct? All signs point to yes.

These are different times and more customers want to physically see what they are buying instead of having a few images on a website representing that large purchase. Dell has always competed with the retailers it is about to partner with, and so how it handles this will be interesting.


With expectations for a severe drop in net income and sales set for next week, Dell is desperate to revive growth. Entering retail may be the quickest fix to please the market (and Dell's shares), and my bet is that the company will make that move. Its products are boring in most cases and it has a lot of work to do to compete on the "style" scale along with price ... Dell's entry into the labyrinth of retail will not be nearly as meaningful as when it left the channel in the early 90s. I hope it has more up its sleeve.

Alexander Grundner, please tell us how excited you are:

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am, and the rest of the Linux home users, are that Dell came through on their promise. This marks the first time that a first tier level PC OEM has delivered Linux to the home market – and it's definitely been noted by the community worldwide


If you have a chance, check out the video (mid-page) Dell prepared touring the Linux group where they chat about free open-source software, multimedia codecs (more info), notebook ACPI and hotkey support.

John Murrell makes a movie analogy:

The question is whether this is going to play out like “Snakes on a Plane” — big geek buzz, no box office.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... iMagritte

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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