Computer system manufacturer, Dell, promises they will deliver Linux support to their desktops and notebooks. Will they deliver and what challenges are they facing?
Offering Linux is great because it can drop the price of their systems by $100 (no Windows license), but at the expense of support. Based on their recent poll, most Linux purchasers are content with online community support rather than the traditional Dell support.
Another concern Dell is aiming to resolve is driver support for a variety of peripherals and making it simple. I can only imagine what their call centers would be like if they released a Linux-based laptop to the masses; who don’t know the differences between Linux and Windows. This would create a negative customer experience, and thus a poor representation of Dell and Linux.
Another business challenge to consider is if offering Linux impact their existing Microsoft relationship? It’s my understanding that as an OEM, Dell receives a discounted price on Windows to bundle with their systems. Let’s say Dell does a rock solid job at offering Linux-based systems, where 10% of sales are Linux. That can be an astronomical value in the eyes of Microsoft.
Ideally, for Dell to sell Linux to the masses, is to sell a dual-boot system that has Windows Vista and Linux. Then just make Grub load Linux first. This can at least provide users the option on what system they want at little or no additional cost. Perhaps a friendly reminder on their sales process that describes what Linux is and explains the differences between them.
Dell is doing well (in the scope of corporate communications) by communicating with customers in their Direct2Dell blog. While I personally don’t own a Dell, I like to see them correcting their mistakes and blogging about a decision to support (or not to) is very noble of them to do.
I fully support Dell selling Linux. What do you think about Linux and bundling that with a large OEM such as Dell?