In a recent 10-day survey, Dell received more than 100,000 responses from users and more than 70 percent of the responders said they would want a Dell PC with Linux for both home and office use. The effect was Dell announcement of plans to preinstall Linux on select desktop and laptop PCs as well as provide support for them. Further details such as distributions offered and pricing will be announced later.
The decision was made as a result of feedback from customers on IdeaStorm website, a new way introduced by Dell for customers to share ideas and experiences directly with their peers and the company. And Dell is really listening to its customers: "Dell has heard you, and we will expand our Linux support beyond our existing servers and Precision workstation line,"
company posted on its "Dell in Action" IdeaStorm blog. "Our first step in this effort is offering Linux preinstalled on select desktop and notebook systems."
Many of the participants to the survey said that it's not that important which Linux distribution will be used, as long as it will fully support the hardware through open source drivers. So the biggest challenge Dell will face in the process of preinstalling Linux on consumers PCs will be to find a full set of open source drivers for the hardware within the new machines, said the software architect on the project. There shouldn't be any problems with drivers for storage, wired networking, power management or USB ports. In cases where there's a choice between proprietary and open source, such as in wireless network adapters or printers, Dell said it will go with the free ones. However, there will be exceptions when proprietary drivers will be used, for instance with 3D drivers for video cards because, in the end, it's all about using which works best.
Another thing the consumers hope for is a price decrease for systems. Theoretically, once a system isn't preloaded with Windows Vista, it *should* drop its price with a few hundred dollars. But then again, training the staff to offer Linux support and other costs involved with preloading Linux on the systems will most definitely reflect in their prices.
A few analysts have presented their abstention, saying that very few Linux desktops and notebooks are sold each year and it's not expected to change with Dell entering the market. Anyhow, what Dell is doing shows that the company is listening to its customers. This proves that Dell is following a good market strategy which will attract more customers, Linux fans or not, this way holding on to its No.1 PC maker crown against its main rival, Hewlett-Packard.
This will not be the first time a PC maker has offered Linux-installed PCs. The industry has had in the past a couple of false starts on preloading Linux onto desktop and notebook systems, so Dell has the ability and the motivation to make it right this time. Let's hope for the best.