Dell offering business PCs without Windows

Dell Computer Corp. is selling business PCs to some clients without Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system installed, a practice it has been involved in for a while, the company said today.

The Optiplex GX260, Precision 530 and Precision 340 can be ordered by certain high-volume business clients, with a clean hard drive and a copy of FreeDOS, an operating system distributed under the GNU General Public License, said Jess Blackburn, a Dell spokesman. Dell has been selling PCs without an operating system installed "for some time, for an extremely small minority of our customers who prefer this option," he said.

The PCs without Windows are available only to business customers; consumers can't order a Dell PC with anything other than Microsoft Windows, he said.

New licensing policies from Microsoft dictate that PC manufacturers ship all PCs with an operating system installed to prevent piracy. However, companies that wish to use other operating systems such as Linux find it easier to install those alternate systems on PCs that have clean hard drives, said Pete Kastner, chief research officer at Aberdeen Group Inc. PCs have to be wiped clean of the old operating system before a new one can be installed, which requires IT staffs' time and labor, he said.

By putting a copy of FreeDOS in a PC's shipping box, Dell is complying with Microsoft's policies and continuing to meet the requests of its customers for a PC without an operating system.

Dell ships PCs with distributions of the Linux operating systems for select business customers who request that specific software be installed on their PCs before they ship, Blackburn said.

The company also said Thursday that it will discontinue its entry-level SmartStep desktop for consumers that was sold as a fixed configuration. A preconfigured Dimension 2300 LE will replace the SmartStep 150D, but the SmartStep name will continue to represent Dell's entry-level notebook PCs.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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