Report: Don't Look to Dell These Days for Linux-based Systems

by Sam Dean - Apr. 28, 2011Comments (4)

Among the major PC manufacturers, as we've noted on OStatic a number of times, Dell--the number two player behind Hewlett-Packard--has shown a lot of support over time for Linux. It has offered Ubuntu on many systems pre-loaded, and Dell product managers have had consistently good things to say about Linux. That's why it's frustrating to see Dell--which is increasingly focused on enterprise buyers--wavering in its long-standing support for Linux. A simple look around the Dell web site illustrates this wavering, and there are other signs that Linux is falling off of Dell's radar.

Open source expert Glyn Moody, writing for Computerworld U.K. notes this:

 "Today, when you try to find out about Dell's systems running GNU/Linux, you are once more confronted with a totally unhelpful Web site. There is nothing that I can find on the home page, nor anything on any of the product pages. Searching for “Ubuntu” brings up a load of useless info about printers, plus a tiny link to "Dell Open Source", so small it doesn't even look like a result."

I followed Moody's tracks through the Ubuntu-focused link above, and sure enough, he's right that at first glance it's nearly impossible to find anything on Dell's site that would seem to make it easy to order a Linux-based system. Moody's further investigation led him to this more helpful page, but if you follow the "Shop Now" button on that page, you find a woefully incomplete landing page.

These findings are more significant than they may seem at first. It's extremely important for the major PC manufacturers to offer Linux as an option, and make it easy for people interested in Linux to learn about its advantages. If this doesn't seem important, just consider the success that Microsoft had in the late 1980s and early 1990s in getting PC manufacturers to adopt Windows. Its sway with them helped Microsoft put Windows on the vast majority of business desktops, and--at the time--helped squash Apple's personal computing efforts. 

Hopefully Dell will return to the Linux-friendly corporate stance that it once had. One also hopes that Dell isn't getting pressure from Microsoft or other major industry players to marginalize Linux. One thing's for sure: Dell's historically enthusiastic stance toward Linux is a shell of what it once was.

Khürt Williams uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


There has never been a direct link to Linux powered machines on the Dell website. Even when they were getting all the press for offering an alternative, the only way to find it was by knowing where to look for it.

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Dell? Pffft... GNU/Linux will do just fine without them.

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I've bought two computers from Dell with Ubuntu preloaded, most recently a Studio 7100.

I don't know if this is related, but some months earlier, I made an inquiry through Dell's online chat interface about the Studio 7100, asking specifically whether it came with Linux installed. The answer was no. I said, in that case I wasn't interested. And no, there was nothing else they could help me with, thank you very much.

Who knows, that may have made a difference.

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Dell's concentrating more on "white boxes" for OEM's and business customers putting their own appliance Linux onto the machines. They still support Linux, just not on machines shipped to consumers, where the volumes and margins weren't there to support the additional complexity on the assembly line of maintaining a second OS disk set and validation tools (because the things do get fired up and run with a diagnostic tool set at the end of assembly to validate that they're correct and match the build spec).

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