Enterprise Linux Log

Aug 27 2007   10:19AM GMT

Dell’s pre-installed Linux program and the numbers game


Blogbeebe took a look at just how many Ubuntu PCs Dell is expected to *really* sell this year and after further review the amount is “not many.”

I’m inclined to agree with that analysis, even in light of SearchEnterpriseLinux.com’s coverage of Dell’s expansion of the pre-installed Linux program into European markets. I’ll try to explain why.

When I headed out to San Fran earlier this month for LinuxWorld, I got the chance to have what was pretty much a one-on-one with Dell execs during a dinner meeting before the show began. A handful of journalists, including SearchDataCenter’s own Matt Stansberry, got to sit toe to to with Dell execs and discuss carte blanche anything and everything they wanted (this included a rather lengthy debate on Grizzly Bear hunting in the wilds of Alaska. Thanks, Matt).

While much of the conversation focused on Dell’s energy saving hardware initiatives (The Next Generation Data Center was being held concurrently with LinuxWorld this year), I took the opportunity to try and get Dell execs to define what “success” means for their pre-installed Ubuntu Linux on Dell hardware program, which was unveiled earlier this year in May.

Why try and define it, especially as the program was being expanded to select European nations?

Well, first off, as I wrote about in my article covering the expansion, the European market *hearts* Linux a bit more than we Yanks in the States, so the move was seen by some as a no-brainer for Dell. Second, and more importantly, Dell refused to give any numbers whatsoever on the program. Instead, when pressed at that dinner, Dell’s director of enterprise marketing Judy Chavis told me that the move to Europe in and of itself was enough proof that the program was working. Perhaps it is, but 20,000 units shipped isn’t even close to the more than 120,000 or so users who demanded that Dell change its ways on the IdeaStorm site.

Multiple sources always help, so here’s Channel Insider’s Scott Ferguson on that same Dell dinner:

So far, it’s hard for Dell to measure the full success of its Linux launch. Judy Chavis, director of enterprise marketing for Dell, said it would take some time for outside analysts and the company to determine the exact number of customers buying and using the company’s Ubuntu PCs. However, judging by the response the company received when the idea was first floated on Dell’s IdeaStorm blog in Feb., the notion of the Linux desktop is catching on with the public.

“A lot has to do with people being comfortable with a Linux desktop,” Chavis said. “What we are seeing are customers who are on their second PC and are looking to give it a try and see what happens. One of the big benefits for us is that the applications are much better on the desktop side then they were several years ago.”

It’s hard to measure because Judy wasn’t telling us :-).

Now, is 120,000 a large number of people? It is by itself, sure, but comparatively speaking it’s kind of pathetic stacked up next to the number of people running Windows XP right now. Its growing, I know. However, it’s also, strangely, much larger than the 20,000 people who have bought an Ubuntu desktop or laptop thus far — as I said earlier, where are the other 100,000?!

Here’s some timely PC news to put that number into context: Taiwan’s leading computer seller Acer will soon take over PC maker Gateway in a $710m deal. According to an article from the BBC, the takeover will create the world’s third largest producer of personal computers, with shipments of more than 20 million PCs and sales of $15 billion. That’s the third largest, and they’re selling 20 MILLION PC’s!

I’ve also seen a fair share of excuses over at sites LinxuToday.com, which is disheartening. It’s disheartening because there’s no conspiracy here, at least on Dell’s part. Theyt aren’t “hiding” the Ubuntu boxes on their web site, and this is certainly not a “project that was designed to fail.” Why? Because the simplest explanation is often the right one. Not supplying Linux woudl have been cheaper than supplying it and then hiding it. People need to get serious here and really look at the reasons why the number sold is only 20,000.

Is it still early, and therefore too early to pass judgment? Maybe. But for all the fervor heaped onto this IdeaStorm coup, there appears to be very little follow up from the Linux community; which had been so passionate in the months preceding Dell’s May announcement.

Maybe they’re all waiting for Hannahkwanzachristmakkah. Maybe 20k is all there is. If so, it doesn’t bode well for Ubuntu’s future on Dell.

3  Comments on this Post

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  • Lonnie
    I may or may not have signed that survey, However, I have not and will not buy a computer that comes pre-installed with anything Microsoft. Of late, I have been building my own computers from new and or used parts and running Debian and Gentoo Linux on them. So, when I am in the market for a new laptop, Dell will certainly be Number 1 on the list, simply because they at least offer a Linux alternative to the Microsoft bloatware. Thanks, Lonnie
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  • Steve Browning
    My company is increasingly selling Kbuntu (Ubuntu's KDE brother) to our customers. The reasons include: - Microsoft's increasingly strong infringement on the free rights with Vista. - 17 000 stable free and powerful programs for consumers to use - Average cost of Windows based PC just for software including a licensed pro version of Windows and Office around $1000.00 - Kbuntu with Open Office (Sun) $0.00 - Wide support for Wi-Fi and high-end video card support - WINE: that allows Windows applications to run on Linux while directly accessing the hardware without a slow emulation layer; therefore the performance is surprisingly good. - Ease of software management - Better networking stack for more responsive networking - we commonly see access to network resources dramatically increase performance when using Linux versus Windows XP or Vista on a same computer. - Kbuntu can be kept as slim or as big as a user desires, thus fitting limited hard-disk, memory and CPU requirements as well as high performance systems. - Open Office (Made by Sun) is a terrific alternative to Microsoft Office as it can open, edit, and save native Word, Excel, Power Point, and Access files as well as its' own native formats, with wide support for open source scripting and automation, all in an easy-to-use and familiar interface. We have found that within the last 4 months Linux interest from our customers has been on a sharp rise and many have asked us if Dell Ubuntu is a good idea. If we were not selling Linux systems to them we would say yes. It just goes to show that people are noticing Dell progressiveness. I hope that DELL sticks with it as we are just on the verge of a Wave that is coming. Thanks, Steve
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  • Jack Loftus
    Interesting points, Steve. I know you're talking about Kbuntu, but I'd like to get your thoughts on a company like Dell selling pre-installed Ubuntu on the server (currently it's just the desktop and laptops). What do you think and why?
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