Pre-installing Linux

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

There’s been a tremendous level of interest in the fact that pre-installed Linux (in the form of Ubuntu | Fedora | OpenSuSE) is the #1 rated suggestion on Dell’s IdeaStorm. On the face of it, there is little question that Linux pre-installation is popular with customers. Why, then, is it so difficult to buy a PC in the US or Europe that has Linux (and ideally Linux alone) on the hard drive?

The devil, as always, lies in the details.

First, margins on PC’s are razor-thin.

This has two significant consequences. Most importantly, it means that Microsoft co-marketing funds are a substantial portion of the profit margins for many large PC retailers. Tweaking the nose of the giant might be fun but it’s risky. If Microsoft reduces the per-PC marketing contribution it makes for a particular reseller, that puts them at a huge financial disadvantage relative to their competitors. This means that one of the biggest issues a computer manufacturer or reseller faces in considering Linux pre-installations is the impact it will have on the Microsoft relationship, and hence bottom line.

Also, thin margins mean that any customer interaction or support call can blow away the profit not just on that sale, but on many others as well. The worst-case scenario is a customer who buys a computer at the lowest price off your website, assuming it’s a Windows machine, and then calls, infuriated, because it “won’t work with the game they are trying to install”. One customer who accidentally gets Linux without knowing what that means is an expensive proposition for a company that makes relatively little on the low-end product range. For this reason, I don’t think it makes any sense for Walmart to sell low-cost Linux PC’s, and we’ve never pushed US / European retailers to try pre-installing Ubuntu unless we think they can segment out the market which genuinely WANTS Linux from those that are just looking for a great deal on “a [windows] computer”.

Second, we free software fans are a fussy crowd, and very hard to please. You know what you are like – you sit and configure that Dell system down to the finest detail, you want a specific model of HP laptop, you want the one that has the Intel graphics chipset not the other chipset because you prefer the free driver approach from Intel… you are in short an expert, demanding customer. This means, that in order to reach us with Linux, a reseller has to offer Linux EVERYWHERE, not just on a few select models.

Worse, we are not “Linux” users, we are users who want version 6.06.1 of Ubuntu, or 10.2 of SuSE, or Fedora 6. We want a specific distro, and in many cases also a specific VERSION of that distro. In order to please us, the vendor has to offer an enormous matrix of possibilities – machine and distro/version.

This is an expensive proposition.

So, what can we do to help address the need?

First, we can help the vendors get more detailed insight into the real nature of demand. For example, here’s a survey being run by Dell that will I’m sure help inform their decisions about how they help you get Linux on Dell:

It would be great, of course, if those sorts of surveys were less vendor-specific, so that we could express our opinions once and have that counted across the whole industry, but there you have it. (It would also be great if Dell would consider Ubuntu to be both community- and commercially-supported, but that’s a different story ;-)).

Second, we can start looking at ways to change the model so that there’s a better fit between customer expectations and the economics of the industry. For example, if you’re one of the people who voted for Linux pre-installation on Dell IdeaStorm, would you be happy to receive a Dell box with no OS and with an Ubuntu disk in the box, which you yourself installed, with no support from Dell? What if it came with an assurance that the set of components you had configured *should* work, but no guarantee? Can we tweak the parameters to get to the point where you would be satisfied, and Dell could make a reasonable profit with only reasonable risk? Solve that, and I think we could all get one step closer to fixing Bug #1.


Of course, some resellers specialise in Linux pre-installations. My favourite of them is System76, who do a great range of laptops and desktops with, amongst others, Ubuntu preinstalled. Kudos to them for spotting the market and making the most of it.

185 Responses to “Pre-installing Linux”

  1. Nicholas Butler Says:

    The expensive matrix you suggest is already managed by Dells of service delivery mechanisms at the website level. The time it takes me to order anything from a new Dell server to a Inspiron Laptop is usually 20 minutes as I have to move from the base class of the order through various installation and configuration options. Much of the leg work for choice is carried by the customer and delivered by the implementation processes of service functionality. The heavy subsidisation which Dell and other manufacturer rely on though is becoming more of a crutch to their business models and I am sure they are aware of the risks which is why the need a new model. Ive already blogged about how I use Dell and Ubuntu to deliver services to my clients and how the inherent lack of effort required to deliver and manage these boxes make a added value proposition. As you say we need to change the market and the expectations it needs to start with understanding of how different Windows is to Ubuntu when it comes to long term support and maintenance. Theres plenty of opportunities for Dell to add value to the installations ( I detailed one on my Blog ) . Im with you on changing the vendors and their habits and beliefs offering Ubuntu would provide any vendor with an additional Unique Selling Point and the first few vendors to commit knowingly to doing so will read early rewards, though they will need to find ways to listen and adapt quickly. If any vendor has shown how to do this in my mind it has been Dell with their Web process for orders and delivery they have the chance to do the right thing. Thanks for your comments though, Ill bear them in mind when I get my next chance to ask my Dell representative where Dell are at.

  2. Roger Lancefield Says:

    Illuminating post Mark, thanks. A short while back Jack Schofield (on the Technology Blog, pointed out an additional reason why many computer vendors are reluctant to unbundle Windows. Apparently it’s because a significant portion of their margin is Win32 “crapware” (his phrase), that is, the plethora of, at best, marginal utility and quality software that comes preinstalled or on CDs supplied with most new IBM-compatibles. He was actually referring specifically to Dell, but no doubt this applies to many other vendors well.

  3. Vincent Says:

    I do think that after a “boycott” for as long as Linux exists, we, the open source community, would soon be satisfied. So the example you named that “[a Dell product] came with an assurance that the set of components you had configured *should* work, but no guarantee?” would already make many (including myself) very happy.

  4. wilberforce Says:

    i’m getting so sick and tired of hearing excuses and rationalizations. just put the cd in the cupholder, install it and sell it. period. there’s no need to analyze or certify. what is so hard about this?

  5. Shuttleworth on pre-installing Linux at Hopeapuu Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth writes about the obstacles for widely available pre-installed Linux PCs. Also note Dell’s Linux survey. […]

  6. Marcello Semboli Says:

    (First of all, pardon me for my poor english)

    You can buy a music player and music CD.
    The player’s producer is not responsible of music’s quality.
    The music vendor is not responsible of player’s fidelity.
    You can choose any player and any music combination, and nobody think this is weird.

    In computer’s evolution, OS is in the uncomfortable position between computers (the players) and software (the music).

    One upon a time, in home computers, like Commodore 64 and Sinclair Spectrum the OS was firmware, bundled with computer.
    Also in the Apple world you have PC and OS meshed together.

    In the Windows era, the OS is utterly linked with software (Windows + Office + Visual Studio).
    Also GNU/Linux disto concept aim to mesh OS and software.

    Really in the history you never really got to be free to choose an OS. Cross platform programming is a very narrow part of computer science.

    Also data are linked to software.

    Finally you choose one of three streamline: win + office + your office data
    or GNU/Linux + OOo + odf
    or Mac + Mac software + Mac data

    High cost of machinery and software also make hard to change your streamline, migration are expensive.

    I think we should aim toward a world where computers (players) should cost 100-200-300 euros and you should choose what OS-software, at reasonable cost, you want to play on it.
    Data should be utterly in open format so you can use it in any system.

  7. Josef Assad Says:

    Community teams volunteering to support the PC vendors in their efforts to bring out Linux-friendly systems ought to do the trick. The ubuntu community is structured enough for something like this to be stewarded. Greg K-H’s appeal to the vendors’ bottom line seems to have worked equally well; seems to me a good part of the reason why we don’t have Linux pre-loaded systems goes to the complexity (and therefore marginal costs) of getting something like that off the ground; ideal for offloading to the community.

  8. » here be dragons Says:

    […] Whoohoo as tons of you have noticed and read about on many blog’s from Elkbuntu to Jono Bacon to Mark Shuttleworth to the F{l}amed Slashdot , Dell has now in response to the Dell Idea storm put up a Page asking about the specifics you would like to see on your Dell pre-installed with Linux. Now I’m not totally sure if this is a good thing or bad, overall I think in the long run it will be good, the only thing I fear is that it will give leeway to the likes of Nvidia and ATI if they use binary drivers ( and yes the Free Drivers will “work” but lets be honest with ourselves , Dell is about $$ , and it dosent make sense for them to sell a computer with an Nvidia Driver that only half works IF there is something that does work )Also the only other gripe I have is Redhat is listed commercially supported ( as it should be ) as well as SuSE ( again as it should ) and then there are openSuSE and Fedora, but Ubuntu is listed only as community supported ? it should be listed as Both also IMHO , Canonical does a great Job of providing commercial support for Ubuntu :) Soooo who do we poke to get this rectified Mark? I would love to see you contact Dell and have them make the correction. […]

  9. Maimon Mons Says:

    I think a reasonable approach would be for Dell (or another PC seller) to sell computers with blank drives that should work with a certain version of Linux. The computer should include a CD for that particular distribution. For extra money, Dell could throw in a coupon for 6 months professional support (that coupon would give a phone number and code good at Canonical or Novell, or Red Hat, or possibly combination of the above). Maybe Dell can get together with Novell and have Novell SuSE Linux 2007 certified hardware only in the machine.

    I certainly think doing the installation of Linux itself is going to be a loss situation for Dell. People have different partitioning schemes and choices of filesystems, let alone the services that are going to be run on the box.

  10. Ewan Says:

    I think the ‘which distro’ question is rather a red herring – what I, at least, want is hardware that’s supported by Free software drivers, then I can choose to install whatever I want, change my mind in the future, upgrade versions; in short, exercise my freedom to choose.

    I don’t want /this/ distro, or /that/ distro – I want any distro.

  11. Thomas Cort Says:

    Here’s an idea for hardware vendors that would minimize the risk of souring their sweet Microsoft deals…. The vendor sells a PC with a hot swap / removable hard drive bay or some trivial way to install a hard drive without opening the case or voiding the warranty. The vendor gives the buyer the option of buying a hard drive with Windows installed on it or the buyer can buy a no hard drive PC. Then some third party or subsidiary sells hard drives for the PC with $LINUX_DISTRO pre-installed, tested, and configured for that specific model.

  12. herman Says:

    I’d rather have PC vendors offer Windows-taxless, nothing-installed hardware but with a clear guarantee that a certain device/configuration works 100%, with open drivers, with Linux (kernel xx) (or with FreeBSD, etc.).
    That’s all you need.
    After all, say it comes with Suse or Ubuntu, then I will remove Suse/Ubuntu and replace it with my distro of choice anyway. BSD users will too.
    What would be so hard about that, to any vendor? Sure, Dell has MS to worry about so I don’t see this really happen on a real life scale.

  13. Alejandro Says:

    ANY mainstream distro would be fine, as long as it’s properly configured. Around here (Argentina) most computers sold by large retailers come with some obscure distros installed, which are promptly removed by in-store techies and replaced with a pirated copy of Windows after the sale (unofficially, of course). Ubuntu, MEPIS, SUSE and Fedora would be fine for most people. We nutcases can install whatever we want.

    By the way, does anyone else think that we FOSS fanboys make that kind of user interaction irrelevant? Dell Ideastorm could be renamed as “The place where FOSS proponents bash Dell asking for Linux, BSD, OOo and Firefox”, as most of the ideas have to do with those.

  14. Ubuntu - É o preço pá… « sixhat pirate parts Says:

    […] Ubuntu – É o preço pá… 14 03 2007 Mark Shuttleworth (e toda a comunidade aliás) escreveu sobre o recente inquérito da Dell, em que pergunta aos utilizadores que distribuição de linux é que gostariam de ver pré-instalada nas máquinas da companhia. […]

  15. Dominique Cimafranca Says:

    Echoing Maimon Mons, out here in the Philippines (and I suppose some other Southeast Asian countries) we are seeing branded laptops and desktops which sell with either pre-installed Linux or no OS at all. The price differences are in the order of $200 or so, which is a significant amount in these parts. Sadly, what often goes into these machines are bootleg Windows.

    That said, support isn’t nearly as big an issue as one might think. After all, bootleggers don’t really expect support from MS. The bigger issue at hand, therefore, is familiarity with a non-Windows OS, viz. Linux. This is where people expect a lot of handholding.

  16. Ubuntu | Brandon Holtsclaw: here be dragons Says:

    […] Whoohoo as tons of you have noticed and read about on many blog’s from Elkbuntu to Jono Bacon to Mark Shuttleworth to the F{l}amed Slashdot , Dell has now in response to the Dell Idea storm put up a Page asking about the specifics you would like to see on your Dell pre-installed with Linux. Now I’m not totally sure if this is a good thing or bad, overall I think in the long run it will be good, the only thing I fear is that it will give leeway to the likes of Nvidia and ATI if they use binary drivers ( and yes the Free Drivers will “work” but lets be honest with ourselves , Dell is about $$ , and it dosent make sense for them to sell a computer with an Nvidia Driver that only half works IF there is something that does work )Also the only other gripe I have is Redhat is listed commercially supported ( as it should be ) as well as SuSE ( again as it should ) and then there are openSuSE and Fedora, but Ubuntu is listed only as community supported ? it should be listed as Both also IMHO , Canonical does a great Job of providing commercial support for Ubuntu Soooo who do we poke to get this rectified Mark? I would love to see you contact Dell and have them make the correction. […]

  17. Gabriel Villalobos Says:

    What about user generated content? If a computer vendor was willing to sell any computer from its production line in a osless form, and provide a site where people from the different distributions would give the information on which of those ‘puters (or at least components) have been proved to work on an specific distro, I think the coexistance would be possible.

  18. Gabriel Villalobos Says:

    At the end of the day, I just wonder when the US will be willing to notice that Microsoft is a monopoly and that with their practices they are shaping the industry the way they want. Is it fair that they are able to offer different deals to different computer vendors forcing them to only sell their software?

  19. Moulinneuf Says:

    No offense meant Mark , but you missed the Mark on that one 😉

    #1 “margins on PC’s are razor-thin”

    False and wrong , we are not talking about can of soup or corn that cost 50 cents here. where if you find a way to cut down the cost by 49 cent the maximum made is still 50 cent. We are talking about computers that cost 359 just for the Box.

    1. Case and power supply retail for 40$
    2. Motherboard. ( onboard video and sound ) retail 40$
    3. CPU retail 30$
    4. Hard drive retail 25$
    5. DVD 16x retail 10$
    6. Vista home basic 35$
    7. Combo mouse/keyboard

    total 185$ retail , 359$ – 185$ = 174$

    Now if it was any Mom and pop corner shop thats all there is to it , now we are talking about Dell.

    1. They don’t pay there part retail price.
    2. They dont invest in R&D ( for building hardware components )
    3. They don’t pay for stocking and inventory.
    4. They don’t pay for product placement in stores.
    5. Service is done in a country where 40/month your considered a rich man
    6. Warranty is taken by the hardware maker

    Shipping is paid by the clients.

    Is that all ? No …

    All the Crapware that people don’t like and complain about are paid TO Dell for install :

    * QuickBooks Trial
    * NetZero Installers
    * Earthlink Setup Files
    * Corel Photo Album 6
    * Tiscali Internet
    * Wanadoo Europe Installer
    * Get High Speed Internet!
    * Internet Service Offers Launcher
    * Dell Search Assistant
    * Norton Ghost 10.0
    * Symantec Live Update
    * MS Plus Photo Story 2LE
    * MS Plus Digital Media Installer
    * McAffee
    * Norton Internet Security
    * Google Desktop
    * Google Toolbar
    * AOL US
    * AOL UK
    * MusicMatch Jukebox
    * MusicMatch Music Services
    * Wild Tangent Games
    * Norton AntiVirus 2005
    * Norton Security Center
    * Norton AntiSpam
    * PC-cillin Internet Security 12
    * Corel Snapfire Plus SE
    * Yahoo! Music Jukebox
    * Vongo
    * Run Registry Entries
    * Desktop Icons
    * Startup Menu Items
    * Corel WordPerfect
    * Roxio RecordNow
    * Sonic DLA
    * Sonic Update Manager
    * Sonic RecordNow Audio
    * Sonic RecordNow Copy
    * Roxio MyDVD LE
    * Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003
    * Quicken 2006

    In reality its Hook and bait for other products , put 3$ on each + referal commision of 20% , 41 product known about at 3$ each thats 123$ up front with a possibility of 41 X 5$ = 205$ in referrals , its just estimation its probably more. that’s 328$ in Dell pockets.

    What else do they have ? Kickback on the OS , Microsoft is using the reward system like Vegas style casino for there OEM where as Microsoft give 60% kickback to there high player , 45% on middle player and 20% the bottom player. With Dell its even VIP platinum treatment , so they probably invest back 30$ out of the 35$.

    The hardware vendor who make up the Dell parts , you think they win by being the best parts from the best components ? no they win by being the lowest price of the bunch and because of kickback on high volumes plus preferential treatment , like first to get the parts , best service on call 24/7 , 365/365.

    ETC …

    Go Visit Dell Round Rock Texas , take your teams there too.

    Go visit Alienware , have to buy Malx I think but its worth the vist:

    Go visit VoodooPC

    ETC …

    “we free software fans are a fussy crowd”

    Please , Stop the painting of the jihadist religious terrorist on Free Software users , We all agree that
    if one Gets on those PC he will pass the info on to the others , now the one with a problem are the Commerical entity
    who want “there” distribution only on it.

    Personally I also don’t want Red hat or Novell , Red Hat got kicked out on Dell in 2000 and only care about corporations and
    Novell did the same on the Lenovo. There product and community are not to Ubuntu level either.

    Drop me a mail , with what I have in mind you will be able to afford your own Ubuntu space station in space and a cottage
    on the Moon. I guarantee 100% you haven’t thought of it.

  20. Brady Merriweather Says:

    I responded to this on my blog Mark. (Be spamming if I cut this huge response on your page. :)

  21. Chuck Frain Says:

    Personally I think what needs to happen for support is that Canonical and Dell partner up. Dell and Canonical get together and find a right laptops/pc’s/servers to install Ubuntu LTS to. Canonical offers software tech support for the Ubuntu installed machines. Dell provides the hardware support.

  22. Damian Trostinetzky Says:


    Is the first time I reply to your articles, even if I read them every time. I want to thank you for introducing me to Linux, I just love it, and it works. I have it installed also in my daughters computers.

    Anyway, the reason I’m replying is because I think there is a market for Linux/Ubuntu Pcs.

    I think that it will be a good idea, to promote the Apple model, where they do the hardware and the software and sells as one package. I don’t know if financially makes sense because you are constraining yourself to a more limited audience. But is something that maybe is good to explore. That way you don’t have to worry about the Microsofts or the Dells.

    Same regarding the Apple Store. I think Ubuntu should go to the shopping mall and open Ubuntu Carts where community members trained show regular people/comuter users the capabilities, the friendly environment and how easy is to get the daily tasks they looking for, that a OS like Ubuntu has to offer and that the learning curve is not that big.

    All right this is what I have to said about it.

    Thanks again and keep the good work.

  23. simfox Says:

    I appreciate your argument re MS co-marketing margins, although I think questions of the legality of this monopoly leverage must be raised, and even pursued in the courts. But for a vendor to offer a choice of OSs presents no great technical difficulty or cost cost increases once initial adjustments are made.

    I worked on an assembly line for a summer, screwing in pre-loaded Windows hard drives and fitting other hardware. For Dell’s website to offer a Linux option (with a pop-up warning that Windows software does not run on Linux, and some simple coding to grey-out selection options for MSOffice, etc) would be simplicity itself. I think an Ubuntu pre-load and a blank drive option those who want alternative distros — with all drivers available from a Linux drivers page — would be a sensible and wholly workable strategy. The assembly process would then include 3 trays of hard drives (Vista, Ubuntu and Blank), which even a semi-trained newbie worker like I was in those days, could manage.

    With a clearly written manual introducing Ubuntu and giving some basic trouble-shooting tips and prominently placed indications of where to go for support (Ubuntu forums definitely, but I think Dell’s email-based Linux discussion forum is good too), users would be off to a running start. Also I think Dell should include a prominent sticker for Ubuntu as they do for Windows as a visual reminder, and their return policy can be adjusted to cater for Windows replacement of Ubuntu units should the customer so desire.

    As Geeks we tend to think the average Joe is stupid, but he’s not — as long as the web-site selection process is well thought-out, with clear information and warnings, so that his choice is not based solely on a $20 OS price reduction, but is made consciously in an informed manner, he will do fine. For most uses Ubuntu is the equal of XP/Vista, with a whole ecosystem of advantages as well. And once Dell offers Linux drivers for all its hardware the last major hurdle to widespread adoption will be behind us.

    Just my two cents!

  24. Simon Day Says:

    For me, I would be quite happy with a PC without an OS, and before I buy an exact (down to revisions) list of the hardware that is going into it.

    Then I can check whether it is supported in linux or not (ok dell could try to help by listing whether each part is supported but I’d probably still go and double check, especially on the wireless)

    Include CDs in the box or don’t, it wouldn’t matter to me as I have my own or know where to download them.

    For other users including install DVDs from suse, fedora and ubuntu is probably the way to go along with a little leaflet where each of the 3 can give their own advertising blurb so a newbie can pick which they want, an intermediate user will already know.

  25. c.cacioppo Says:

    Thats all fine and good. Users should have a choice if its offered. Incidentally, Suse and Red Hat are clearly good choices as a starting pt.
    Ubuntu is not there yet.

  26. davidwr Says:

    Give me a bare box without the “Microsoft Tax” and put Linux and BSD device drivers on your web site and that will satisfy most of hobbyists.

  27. Justin Says:

    I don’t mind PC vendors who offer PC’s with Windows-taxes even not if it’s pre-installed with windows version X. Because if it’s not the right price you’ll go to some one else.

    What I do would like to see from these PC vendors is that they at least promise that this specific hardware is compatible with linux, and if it’s not that they will make it compatible by contributing to the linux kernel.

    It would of course be nice for the people who are new to linux that they can have a system with kubuntu/ubuntu installed but that’s not the most important in my opinion.

  28. kamy Says:

    I think Linux is doing just fine right now and is better supported by us going to our friends and passing CD’s around and answering to their questions. I would just like to be able to buy a laptop without paying the windows tax (desktops i build myself).

  29. Proteus Says:

    I second what Maimon Mons wrote. A laptop manufacturer would make me very happy if
    1) all of the hardware was certified to run on Ubuntu/Novell/Fedora
    2) the hard drive arrived blank
    3) I received a CD/DVD of every OS that I paid for (Vista, Linux, whatever)

    I’m going to make it into a dual-boot anyway — that’s part of the fun. All I ask (and expect) is that there are no serious hardware issues during installation or normal use.

  30. SUSE Linux Says:

    Good article…but:

    it’s SUSE and openSUSE


    SuSE and OpenSuSE

  31. Shuttleworth Tells Linux Users to Stop Being So Fussy For OEMs Says:

    […] Anonymous writes “Mark Shuttleworth says Linux users may need to stop being so fussy when putting demands on OEMs for pre-installed Linux PCs. CRN finds a response to Shuttleworth that seems to be both amusing and telling at the same time.” […]

  32. Zaphod Beeblebrox Says:

    Heh. Most of us experts would be happy with any version of linux preinstalled on the machine with a complete set of (working) opensource drivers. If that were the case, I could live with installing my favorite environment (FreeBSD) when it arrived.

  33. Matt Lee Says:

    Everyone should be voting for Dell to ship gNewSense on their machines. I don’t understand why anyone would want them to do otherwise? Surely, the fact that Ubuntu ships binary drivers is because a lot of machines come with hardware that requires them… we should support Dell in creating and selling machines that do not require any non-free software, instead of having a “my non-free distro is better than yours” contest?

  34. David Schnur Says:

    The difference between a computer and a CD Player is that the CD player is incredibly simple to operate; literally any person who buys one will have no problem inserting a CD into the player.

    Installing an operating system, on the other hand, even one with an installer as user-cajoling as Microsoft has tried to make theirs, is a significantly more difficult task, and greatly intimidates most users. Therefore it’s necessary in the to offer pre-installed operating systems rather than allowing users to provide their own.

  35. Cyde Weys Musings » Mark Shuttleworth tackles Linux on commodity PCs Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth, the financier behind Ubuntu (thanks Mark!) tackles the problem of Linux in a recent blog post. He points out that profit margins are very low on these products, and that co-marketing funds from Microsoft make up a significant proportion of the profits. Without these funds, the profit margins on machines are so small that a problem with any single order can negate the profits on many orders. All it takes is one guy complaining that he “can’t install his [Windows] programs” and returning the computer to cancel out the profits on ten other sales. Unfortunately, the number of people who would do this kind of thing is way too high, as the average computer buyer really doesn’t know anything about Linux, and many sales of Linux PCs might end up being accidental, i.e. the person doesn’t realize what they’re getting into. […]

  36. Peter Masiar Says:

    OS-free PC with Ubuntu Live CD is all I need, I happily install it myself (it takes about 10 clicks and 20 mins). Dell can have some reasonable subset (Linux-ready, or Ubuntu-ready) of all configurations, vetted up by Ubuntu gurus and OK by them/Canonical. Just to make sure Dell would not make some strange hardware change painfull to Linix. And free support from existing forums should be enough – we provide it anyway.

  37. ig Says:

    As always, Mr. Shuttleworth paints a realistic picture of the situation without resorting to bashing anyone. Kudos for a well reasoned and written piece.

    So, how do we approach the preload situation?

    I don’t have an answer for the problem of making up for lost Microsoft soft-money, unfortunately. Theoretically that should already be illegal, but Microsoft has, to date, been able to work around legal obstacles.

    I think that we can solve the remaining problems, though. Obtaining a desktop or laptop for use with Linux, at least at this early stage, doesn’t have to be easy — it merely has to be POSSIBLE. I think Wal-Mart’s “PC’s with Linux” plan was a bad idea. As this blog entry mentioned, you end up with customers who just go for the cheapest models assuming that they’re going to get Windows. I would be happy to see the Dell order customization screens simply offer two additional options: “replace Windows with Linux” and “omit Windows.” The latter would be useful for people who don’t care for the Linux flavor Dell chooses to offer (though I hope it’d be Ubuntu, perhaps with the proprietary codecs from Linspire pre-integrated). I wouldn’t even mind if selecting one of those options popped up a box that warns the user that Linux does not easily run Windows software.

    Later on, once we have market share and consumers begin to understand that a Linux box isn’t any more likely to run Windows software than, say, a Macintosh is — then we can revisit the ordering options again.

    The important thing, though, is that by offering a Linux option, Dell will presumably test and certify it with their hardware. This will eliminate the need to do crazy things like hunt down video driver patches, or even really obscure things like disassembling and repairing the ACPI DSDT.

  38. rcb1974 Says:

    Here is what I think Dell should do:

    1) Give people the option on Dell’s website to select “Operating System Not Installed”. Clearly explain in laymans terms what that means; you won’t be able to play World of Warcraft unless buy and install Microsoft Windows seperatly (sort of like “Batteries Not Included”). Yes, I know WoW runs under Wine on GNU/Linux but that isn’t something the average user will be able to get working.
    2) Have option to select which GNU/Linux distrubution CD-ROM you want shipped with your system. Dell should not attempt to provide software support for any GNU/Linux distribution since it will be too expensive, and their “Home” users are for the most part not computer savvy, and expect to use Windows. Instead, Dell should direct GNU/Linux users to obtain software support from the respective GNU/Linux distribution website (RedHat, Ubuntu, SuSe, etc)
    3) Dell should Ship with the PC their excellent Diagnostic Test Software boot CD-ROM. If you’ve used this, you’ll know that it is best PC hardware testing software out there. It tests every single hardware component of your PC. Dell could use this to provide hardware support for the systems they sell.

    Here is what I think the US govn’t should do:

    1) Make it ILLEGAL for PC manufacturers to install “craplets” — software that just slows down your computer and wastes your hard disk. Example: AOL Free Trial!. That way, GNU/Linux PC would actually have a competitive price advantage over Microsoft Windows based PCs. Currently, PC manufacturers make about $70 per PC by installing craplets on their PCs that only run on Microsoft Windows. This is one reason why PCs that ship with Microsoft Windows are more expensive than Linux PCs. Microsoft doesn’t want craplets on PCs either since many of them are not Vista compatible, and actually cause problems for Vista, and thus make Vista “look bad” to the consumer.

  39. Mike Says:

    First, Dell (as well as many others) offer systems with “No Operating System”, but generally only on the business-class machines since those normally go to folks with volume license agreements. Comsumers are generally free to buy one though.

    Like it or not, Linux is not nearly as easy as Windows is to support. With Windows, every copy — regardless of locale, version, or language — has the same place for cmd.exe. Think of all the different places stuff hides on linux .. it could be /bin, /usr/bin, /usr/local/bin, /opt/bin, etc.

    Now imagine trying to explain to “Bob” in India (which, oddly, seems to be everyone that works for Dell’s name) .. that you’re missing library ‘x’ and can’t compile ‘y’.

  40. bgfay Says:

    If I could buy a Dell laptop with 1GB of memory and a ready to use CD and DVD burner running Ubuntu preinstalled, I would do it today.

    I’ve got an HP Laptop with XP and I don’t feel like monkeying with it and risking things to put Linux on it. I’ve done that before with different levels of success but that was before I had children and a lot more demands on my time.

    Preinstalled major brand laptop = purchased laptop.

  41. poptones Says:

    I’m not fussy at all, Mark. All I want is to be able to buy a Dell laptop, whip out the ubuntu install cd (doesn’t matter if it came in the box with the computer or not) and know that, when the cd is done, my shiny new laptop will work in linux at least as well as it would OOTB in windows. I don’t even care if it comes preconfigured with windows so long as I know it’s ALL (that means modem, sound, network, wifi, firewire, 3d accel) going to work with ubuntu WITHOUT me having to invest 100 hours crawling through support forums trying to figure out what config file needs to say what and what modules need to be added.

    If Dell would put together a laptop and then work with you folk to make sure ALL the drivers work and are included in Ubuntu-whatever, then they’d sell me a new machine.

  42. Joseph Says:

    It is interesting that the founder of Ubuntu thinks that Dell need be concerned about supporting the OS. To my knowledge, this situation–hardware vendor supporting the OS–is only required with the Microsoft or Apple systems. Dell could easily contract with Ubuntu, Red Hat, Novell, or some third party to do the (software) support. Then the user who wonders why WoW won’t install without jumping through hoops need not trouble Dell–that responsibility falls upon the support partner’s shoulders.

    Does Ubuntu not do support?!

  43. Steve Magruder Says:

    I am all but certain that this survey and seeming open mindedness by Dell are a back-handed effort by Microsoft to nudge the Linux distributions to coalesce into one. After all, if there’s only one Linux, Microsoft will have a much easier time pummeling it into nonexistence. As it stands now, Microsoft endures the uncomfortable position of having to play “Whack a Mole”. And this is a Good Thing (TM).

  44. Pete Says:

    Hello Mark,
    The issue is does Linux work with a new Dell PC. Here are a few thoughts:

    1) Sell Drives w/out an OS and still minus the discount of XP / Vista off that machine.

    2) If Dell is so inclined; the can provided some dev machines to developers to make sure that the hardware is recognized.

    Dell, does haven’t to support the OS; that is why Canonical and Red Hat do for their money.

    Most companies let their business partners do the work. I am sure if there are some major companies that want:

    RH or Ubuntu to be installed on OS’less machine. Dell would sell the desktops; RH and Canonical would provided support.

    Just my .02 cents worth.

  45. devilbush Says:

    Don’t project yourself onto every other Linux user, Narcissus.

  46. Scott Lamb Says:

    We’re really not as picky or conflicting in our opinions as you say. Yes, I want the chipset with the Free driver. With the exception of gamers, just about anyone in the FOSS crowd will at least prefer that one also.

    Beyond that, I think there are about three groups of potential buyers. (I fit into #1 or #2, depending on the time of day.)

    (1) Commercial. They want RHEL with paid support.

    (2) Hobbyist. They’ll say “I’ll only use Fedora Core 9!” or Ubuntu or Gentoo or whatever, even if it hasn’t shipped yet. But the truth is, they’re not going to use the support anyway, so Dell can ship anything and they’ll just reinstall it. The reason they want a Linux-branded machine is to know the hardware meets their expectations (i.e., has Free drivers).

    (3) Mainstream consumer. They want paid support (with a lot of hand-holding), and they probably don’t even know what a distribution is. As long as it boots with working X11 and drivers out of the box, they’ll do okay.

    It seems like the logical thing to do is to ship Linux-ready hardware, with an option of paid RHEL support. That should satisfy everyone but the hardcore gamers, and if Dell does that, maybe vendors like nVidia will get with the program and so Dell can truly satisfy everyone in the future.

  47. Fergus Says:

    Point is this: just offer a box with no OS on it. I’ll do the rest.

  48. Jim Priest Says:

    I agree there are some hurdles but don’t think they are insurmountable.

    For most hardcore Linux users – I don’t think you would see a mass exodus from building DIY boxes to Dell. As you said – most people want to configure everything – myself included.

    What I would like to see is a basic box, with compatible hardware that I could buy at a low cost and setup for my parents, neighbors, etc… They would see recognition in the Dell name, and I would be happy knowing they are using a safe and secure OS. These people don’t need cutting edge hardware and performance. They need web, email and an office program. These same needs would also fit a lot of small offices as well.

  49. Linux and OEMs « Dissociated Press Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth has some comments on his blog about pre-installing Linux, and the issues that OEMs face with selling Linux. He’s spot on, of course, when it comes to the problems that OEMs have — margins are already thin, supporting Linux could be pricey, there are tons of distros to choose from (which is great for Linux users, but lousy for OEMs and ISVs who just don’t care about the differences/advantages of package formats or admin tools they just want something that they can target) and other issues. […]

  50. Joe E Says:

    I might be opening a can of worms here but I think something needs to be said. I’m 39 years old. I’ve been involved with computers since I was 13. I like Linux. I like Ubuntu specifically. I understand the free software movement. But I think there is 1 thing that the free software movement does not understand about users. Users don’t care about whether the software they are using are GPL, GPL2, GPl3, Aladin, BSD, or a host of other types of licenses. They just want it to work. I have a decent PC that I run Ubuntu on. I have Nvidia video and an Atheros based WiFi card. I don’t much care that I have to use the Restricted module to make these work fully. Most end users feel the same. They don’t care. They don’t realize that they don’t OWN their software. They just want to turn on their pc and be able to surf, print, or play a game without a hassle. In order to get some of these hardware vendors to come on board, some concessions are going to have to be made by the Linux people when it comes to drivers. Perhaps a middle ground can be found.

  51. Matthew Tedder Says:

    Realistically, all Dell needs to do is provide hardware that is 100% certified for GNU/Linux.

    They could, then, provide CDs of several of the leading distros to be explored and installed by users (i.e., OpenSuSE, Fedora, Mandriva and Ubuntu).

    Or, just provide Novell SuSE Desktop (which is what I think they will do) pre-installed, and perhaps add in an Ubuntu CD.

    I personally think a Dell Linux would be fine, too.. Base it on Debian, Fedora, or OpenSuSE.. You could build support mechanisms into the distro, such as short-cuts to IRC channels.

  52. Carlos GUSLiBu Says:

    …we free software fans are a fussy crowd, and very hard to please….

    Please, I want a computer which supports Linux. The main reason for free software users paying too much attention to those details is that many hardware is not compatible with Linux. I want to be a computer user, not a technical expert. I want to buy a computer and I want it to be running Linux without problems. Why pulling vendors to preinstall Linux has to be so bad? You know who is going to buy those machines: Advanced users and companies who want a computer to run Linux, not home users.

  53. Paul Crowley Says:

    Linux on a PC by Dell is going to look an awful lot like the RedHat distribution did. They don’t really have much choice. They have to step up and make sure Dell proprietary BIOS extensions and such are supported. They have to make sure that ACPI works so you can hibernate a notebook. They have to make sure the video and network drivers work, including wireless.

    Then they have to make sure this all works out of the box for the utter noob that can be expected to buy it. If it doesn’t they have failed. The market for Linux on a PC is not the “Ubuntu community” or “Linux fanboys”, it is the general public. This is going to require them to dedicate significant resources to a single distribution for support purposes and to get all the drivers working properly together.

    One thing that people seem to be missing here is that Dell (or anyone) isn’t going to decide on hardware components based on their level of Linux support today. They are going to choose a distribution and add needed drivers to it – even writing some – based on the hardware that is available to them. If the decision is to use an ATI video chipset that doesn’t have Linux support in a notebook they aren’t going to change the hardware to suit Linux, they are going to change Linux to suit the hardware. They will (obviously) be selling 100 Windows machines to 1 Linux machine and aren’t going to change their hardware process based on 1%.

    I bought a Dell server machine with RedHat 9 some time ago and it came with all sorts of Dell added stuff. Support for the RAID. Support for the BIOS. Support for hardware diagnostics. You are not going to get Dell to strip the machine down to “commodity generic” stuff if that is not what they are selling for Windows. And it isn’t.

    Sure, Dell could sell a “bare” machine with no OS for those that want it. But, the support nightmare would certainly come to pass where they were trying to support Fred’s Linux Distro and failing. This does not make for good customer relations. Any Linux program that allowed that to happen would be pulled at complaint letter #5. Permanently. Do you blame Dell for not wanting to get into that?

  54. Michael Says:

    I’d be happy to get a blank machine and a CD. IF IT WORKED. Unfortunately there are still some nagging details that don’t work properly with regard to drivers (sleep/hibernate, wireless, ATI cards are a nuisance). This is particularly true if you try to pick up a random laptop, but it would really be nice if the desktops all hibernated properly as well. For me it would be sufficient if the computer models simply had a flag indicating if they were fully compatible with some off the shelf linux distribution. It would be even better if they made sure more models were that way.

  55. Zerhackermann Says:

    What I think would be the best solution (assuming nothing in the community or distro environment changes in the time it takes to deploy Linux based offerings) is to:

    1) as you mentioned – bundle the CD for the distro of choice
    2) Have a second CD of drivers certified with that version of the distro
    3) as Dell offers in the survey – utilize community based support with extensive involvement on Dell’s part

    Will it be a gangbuster? probably not. I feel it will gain Dell publicity and good will, neither of which can be discounted.

  56. Metro Says:


    Great post :)

    [quote]…an Ubuntu disk in the box, which you yourself installed…[/quote]

    In my opinion this will make the trick.

    Maybe you and the great community of Ubuntu can consider to have a group to work directly with the big players (dell, asus, toshiba, etc) to develop a .iso for a few modells from then that will make all the hardware funcional from the start. That particular reader, the camera, etc that give so many work to get working to a noob.

    I now that one day we will have it. I only can hope that will be really soon :)

    I also must say that is very bad that for example dell don’t have in consideration some country’s. In my country (Portugal) only Company’s can buy dell products. it is not possible to a home user to buy from dell.
    I hope that can change one day.


  57. Keith_Beef Says:

    If we accept the following to be true:
    – that Dell is in business to make profit
    – that a good proportion of Dell’s profit comes from its relationship with MicroSoft (MS)
    – that MS has got Dell over a barrel

    then surely we cannot expect Dell to “sour its deal with MS”.

    So it follows that pushing Dell for OS-less PCs is fruitless.

    Even asking Dell to certify that its PCs will be 100% open-source compatible at the hardware driver level is fruitless.

    Much more realistic, in my opinion, would be to go to manufacturers of mainboards and video cards, of barebone systems, and press for enough details so that we can get open-source drivers written.

    Then have “Mom & Pop stores” doing the final assembly and OS installation.

    As it is, we already have Mom & Pop stores assembling and installing Windows, and this niche seems to co-exist with the big operators like Dell. (At least in the UK and in mainalnd Europe. I admit I haven’t seen many in the US.)

    So my opinion is, leave the bulk, lumpen market to the likes of Dell and MS, and attempt to increase the size of the existing niche market for Mom & Pop and Linux.


  58. Robert Devi Says:

    Hi Mark. It’s true that Linux users, like Mac users, are a fussy bunch. We wouldn’t have gone out of the mainstream if it offered us what we wanted. But you’ve forgotten something important.

    Let’s look at that list: (I’ve added one item so that Ubuntu has the same options as the others)
    Commercial: Novell/SuSE Linux Desktop,
    Commercial: Red Hat Enterprise Desktop,
    Community Supported: Fedora,
    Community Supported: OpenSUSE,
    Community Supported: Ubuntu,
    Commercial: Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support).
    Since RHEL, SUSE, Ubuntu LTS have are more conservative than Fedora or OpenSUSE or Ubuntu (no nLTS), then if your hardware supports RHEL or SUSE or Ubuntu LTS, it’ll automatically support Fedora or OpenSUSE or Ubuntu (non LTS). Okay, so we have three items on our list.

    So far, so good. Since the Linux kernel version number determines what hardware is supported, then if your hardware supports the oldest kernel of RHEL, SUSE, and Ubuntu LTS, there’s a very good chance it supports them all.

    So out of the list of 6 or so distributions, Dell have a single number to work with (call it kernel 2.6.x). Look at the hardware their selling. If it’s supported by 2.6.x, then fine. If not, then they need to replace (or drop) the hardware in favour of something that 2.6.x does support. They could then say “Works with Linux 2.6.x”. It’s not that difficult, is it?

    Now let’s take it to the next level. Suppose Dell gave pre-release versions of their hardware to RedHat, Novell, and Canonical in exchange for *their* work in validating the hardware and their certification mark. The only thing Dell would need to do is receive their “hardware compatibility” reports, do the necessary hardware replacements (if any), and offer *certified* RHEL, SUSE, or Ubuntu LTS CDs along with the hardware (that contains no operating system). I’m sure that RedHat, Novell, and Canonical would jump at the offer, especially since if they don’t, their competitors will and they’d be locked out of a juicy market. It’s good for RedHat, Novell, and Canonical who get better hardware support, and it’s good for Dell which gets to tag “Works with Linux 2.6.x”, “RHEL Certified”, “SUSE Certified”, and “Ubuntu LTS Certified” to their product with minimal work.

    Now let’s take it to the next level — preinstallation. They could tack on a $20 fee for anyone who wanted “Certified Linux” preinstalled. No tech user would accept this option, but many newbies would. They’ve just generated an additional source of revenue for something that could be easily automated through imaging. There are tonnes of these value added services that can be used to generate revenue.

    Fussy people are more likely to appreciate services catered to them than the mainstream (who will go for any commodity item they find at the lowest cost).
    Mainstreamers are responsible for the razor thin margins (in the Ubuntu world, they’re the ones who are happy with community support and thing else).
    It’s the fussy that provide Dell, Canonical, and others with larger margins. Any OEM that walks away from this market is selling itself short.

  59. Edmundo Says:

    I think there could be a “just a touch” different approach to including a variety of distributions in a single delivery.

    Intead of including a number of CDs of the most common distributions (10 CDs? 15?), it could be possible to include the installers to run from the bottom of the Hard Drive (more than one installer can easily fit inside a HD) and then be wiped out (the installers) after the installation.

    Perhaps asking the user to burn a CD with the selected distribution in case something is wrong.

    Or simply leaving the option of wiping all the installers to a user who so wishes.

    Just a thought (a couple, as a matter of fact).

  60. Uwe Thiem Says:

    Pre-installed Linux boxes for endusers aren’t all that important in my book. Before we can tackle the home user market in earnest, we still have to overcome one big hurdle: gaming. Everything else is in place, office applications, multimedia, browsing, IM, VoIP, digital cameras, digital camcorders – whatever. But Linux remains weak on gaming.

    The corporate desktop, on the other hand, is a target that is clearly in reach. All necessary components are there. We just have to assemble them. We don’t need pre-installed linux boxes out of the shelf for this. Any local supplier/distributor/whatever can do it. Well, maybe not any, but it can be done.

    We at SysEx do it.

  61. Paul Jacobson Says:

    The irony is astounding. Buy a cheaper machine with Windows or a more expensive machine with Linux. That is just crazy!

  62. Alejandro Says:

    David: You mean Windows is particularly easy to install? I just installed XP for my brother, and it takes me FAR more time than installing Edgy+codecs+Nvidia drivers+whatever configuration I want. You need to manually install a current IM client, an office Suite, a decent web browser, antivirus software, misc. hardware drivers, an archiver that can handle .tar and .rar, and downloading security patches. Plus, I can’t use the computer while I install. Ubuntu has the best installer I’ve ever seen in any OS.

    (but Vector Linux’s makes me laugh…)

  63. Georgios Tsipotis Says:

    The CD and the music player work independently because they are standardized to do so. Same with PCs, they are standardized on windows. If the major PC manufacturers standardize on (one, not more) Linux distribution, its all that we ask. What we don’t want is to pay $$$$ for a branded box (or graphics card) and not be able to operate it under ANY distro

  64. Steven C. Buttgereit Says:

    Not all of us forgot about Canonical when filling out the survey. I selected other: Commercially supported Ubuntu via Canonical agreement. The capitalist in me would not have had it otherwise. :-)

    I think there are some wonderfully salient points in your posting particularly about not confusing where the current demand for Linux on the desktop comes from and the complexities of co-op marketing dollars. As a corporate manager, Linux on the desktop is much closer than in the past but still not there yet; I won’t be installing or buying support for such installations anytime soon for all save my most tech-savy power users, and even then no for anyone outside of IT. For a company like Dell to jeopardize an important source of cash such as co-op for such a slim portion of the market would not be an appealing proposition for any manager there I presume. We must remember, they aren’t in it for the cause: they are in it to make profit (as they should be) and anything not consistent with that position must necessarily be rejected if management is on its toes. Having said that, the upstart that doesn’t get co-op from MS or other big players anyway may find room in the niche if they play their cards right…. they simply don’t have as much to lose.


  65. Liam McDermott Says:

    On a completely unrelated note: I sent Mark an e-mail regarding a petition for the UK government to support ODF. I can understand if he doesn’t want to blog about it directly, but I thought I’d leave a note here in case any Brits reading this are unaware.

    The petition is at: I believe it important for the future of our country, and its governments ability to communicate with its citizens, that ODF be adopted.

  66. Chris Says:

    What if Canonical partners with Dell to offer official Ubuntu support. When a person buys a Dell with pre-installed Ubuntu, maybe Dell could sell them support from Canonical at a discounted rate. Maybe all new Ubuntu Dell’s come with 3-6 months email support, it could have a guaranteed response within 48-72 hours. Then for a small fee customers could buy guaranteed 24hr response time email support. For a little more, standard business hours phone support. And then the last option, 24hr phone support.

  67. herod42 Says:

    I don’t get it.
    We only want computers that “just works”.

    Whatever the way (certifying or not, preloading Ubuntu or Fedora, etc.), the “preinstalled distro” thing is no more, for us, than some sort of “it just works” confirmation.

    But the main support should go to upstream.

    Specifically, for a laptop, a Linux user wants, straight in his standard kernel & xorg :
    – Working hibernate & suspend
    – Accelerated graphic chipset with free drivers
    – Working Wifi (with redistribuables firmwares)
    – Working internal modem (if any) and/or webcam (if any)

    For this, Dell, doesn’t have to support every distro version out there : they mostly have to get patches integrated in the upstream vanilla linux kernel and the standard git repos. Or presure their suppliers to work on this. Then, the community and the distro vendors will do their job (integration, end-user documentation, support, …) as usual.

    So why why don’t hardware makers get this simple thing ?
    We don’t want “certified RHEL 4 binary driver for the IBM x346 raid chip” that breaks on upgrade anymore. Things don’t work like that nowadays, in linuxland. If they work like this, they’ll only get heavy criticisms.

    So why is still Dell polling for things like “what distro do you want”, “what kind of support ?”, …, didn’t they understood ?
    We only want Dell products to work with “Linux” (not specifically “Ubuntu 6.4” or “Fedora 7.0”), it’s that simple. Proper patches integrated in main kernel repository (where they’ll be reviewed and maintained in the long run by who-knows-how-to-do-it-properly), and everything will work on future distributions releases.

    Remember the Nokia’s Maemo/N770/N800 success ? Nokia got it, at least, and had momentum and good PR in return. They know who we are, they know how to work with us.

  68. MA_D’s Blog»Blog Archive » Shuttleworth on Linux from PC Vendors Says:

    […] The blog entry by Shuttleworth is one worth reading. He talks about some significant issues: Don’t worry, he doesn’t tell you to be a different person he just tries to lower your expectations a little. […]

  69. Decio Says:

    Fussy is you!
    You are billing me on OS you install, that I won´t.
    So, you are talking about my money, don´t yours.
    So fussy is you, and only you!

  70. Ian Says:

    Mark obviously knows that those with the least risk in preinstalling linux on laptops are startup companies not doing anything else. e.g. System76.

    Let’s face it, we want Linux on Laptops, and what I mean is that we want all the hardware on a Laptop to work with the Linux kernel. Doesn’t matter which distro Dell test this with, kernel driver compatibility is THE issue. Crack that for your customers, slap a penguin sticker on it and you can sit back and watch the cash roll in.

    One model is all you need to start at. The only proviso is that you must listen to the community and keep testing new hardware against the Linux kernel.

  71. Steve Stites Says:

    “Worse, we are not “Linux” users, we are users who want version 6.06.1 of Ubuntu, or 10.2 of SuSE, or Fedora 6. We want a specific distro, and in many cases also a specific VERSION of that distro.”

    Actually I have my own personal configuration for running Linux. I can create my configuration from almost any Linux distribution and have done so using Fedora, Mandriva, SuSE, and Kubuntu. So, I don’t think that which distribution is offered will be a problem for Dell. Faced with a choice of Windows or some Linux distribution on a Dell machine I will always buy Linux and reconfigure whatever Dell offers to suit my needs.

    Steve Stites

  72. r3buzz Says:

    Now what would be the point (for us fussy geeks) for Dell to get intimate with any specific vendor?

    Since we’re still human, we have differences in taste. And demand choice, it seems. So, the optimal strategy for Dell would be to get into contact with Greg K-H (remember his driver program?), and arrange for decent drivers for all of their hardware, which will assure compatibility for Dell’s products from then on. Then all the vendors/distro’s/whatever can backport everything to their LTS versions, or recommend upgrading to current versions (for bleeding edge stuff like desktops etc).

    Before too long, Dell can tick off “fully supported on linux (running a reasonable recent kernel)”. End of story.

    Oh, and BTW, since it seems the MS tax actually saves ME money (an Optiplex with Windows is, or used to be, cheaper than an N-series with FreeDOS), they can ship any box WITH windows on it to me. Since I format away adware in any case, _even_ if I plan to run windows on it, it doesn’t actually cost me anything …. 😉

  73. Long Time Linux User Says:

    I hate to tell you that this whole thing might just be Dell positioning itself for the next round of negociations with MS regarding the cost of faciliating PC technology preinstalled with MS operating system / application software. Lets face it, if Dell is able to decrease the over head cost of installed MS software technology by a small fraction it will increase its overall profits much more than selling PC’s with Linux installed and be preceived as having less risk.

    Now, if we want to get serious about delivery of linux based workstations to customers we need to expand the install process to include an internet connection, perferably high speed, right from the get go. I say this because all the issues I have had relative to installing Linux over the past 4 years have been show stopper hardware configuration issues, e.g. unsupported display adapter / display, unsupported LAN/WAN device, USB Keyboard / Mouse not recognized during configuration process, software required for device support is not on distribution CD. I am a long term Linux user and I have gotten around these problems by preinstalling drivers, using an alternate installation method, or replacing the unsupported hardware with supported hardware and installing the OS and the required software (downloaded from the internet) after the fact then restoring the hardware back to the original configuration. This is way too much work for a typical PC user to handle. I think we should expand the BIOS on PC motherboards to provide for enabling the linux boot process to proceed with support for a network connection for a target ftp/http site which will provide for downloading the driver / application software required over and above the software on the CD/DVD for the install. This will provide for a user to have a seamless install process when they install Linux, enable them to use the latest open source software on their pc and prevent them from having to learn all of the alternate methods required for a successful install.

    There you have it.

  74. Jon Says:

    Mark, I think we all understand the point about the thin margin on desktop OEMs. That’s always been an issue and it’s a way that Microsoft creates a monopoly. One solution for that is for a Linux distributor to give kickbacks to Dell the way Microsoft does and to offer a channel for support without involving Dell. This isn’t easy, since Linux distributors aren’t exactly making loads of money of the distribution, but it’s not an impossible solution. But that’s not my main point.

    The point about Dell’s (or even Wal-Mart’s) margin seems to be getting confused with how the actual users will react to Linux. Most novice users won’t even notice that they’re not using Windows. They will notice, like you said, when they attempt to install something off the shelf at Wal-Mart, such as a game. The solution is not to not offer (i.e. surprise the user with) pre-installed Linux, but to make finding software (and setting up the pre-installed software) blindingly easy and to offer good support channels for the things that just don’t work, like games. Most novice adult users don’t care about big label PC games.

  75. John Howell Says:

    Having the OS preinstalled is no good for many corporate as they will blow it away and load their own suite of OS and applications. I know this is what I do for 99% of my customers. In this case, just having drivers for all of the hardware supplied would be fine. Biggest hassle I have with any linux distro is with keyboards supplied with extra buttons the users want to use, laptops with extra buttons for system functions like volume control, tablet screen rotation, wifi on/off etc. I had a laptop that all of the BIOS features could only be accessed from a software application written for Win32. I had to keep an MS OS installed just to config the hardware!
    My company supplied me with an MS wireless keyboard and mouse. The devices would not initialise until I had installed and run the device driver in Windows.
    Once these sorts of issues are covered, it is actually pretty trivial to install linux on most hardware, and infact openSUSE off DVD takes much less time than either XP or Vista for installation. If the distro repositores are mirrored on a local server, a corporate deployment would be even faster.
    For business, a linux PC could cost twice as much to buy than a Windows PC, and would still work out cheaper than the Windows functional equivalent.
    The MS way: buy PC + OEM Windows, then delete. Buy software to package and distribute apps and OS (eg Altiris or SMS) licence Windows with maintenance, buy CAL to access mail and Active directory, buy CALs for Terminal Server for remote users.

    Linux way: (just an example) Buy PC with no OS. Buy support for a suitable linux distro, package any apps not already bundled as RPMs with tools already in the distro. Deploy using Yast/redcarpet,yum etc already in the distro. (you might have to but user licences for acess to a corporate LDAP directory like eDirectory, but you could use openLDAP for free.) Use mail clients already in the distro to access your mail server, use “ssh-X user@server” or ifolder to support remote and laptop users.

  76. iwantubuntu Says:

    Sell the hardware Mr. Shuttleworth, follow your instincts. Do like Apple, it just works!
    Cool cases, mini-itx, the green dragon, UBUNTU.
    The time is now…

  77. Paul Johnson Says:

    It seems like all hardware choices made by Linux users boils down to two things:

    1. Is it a complete product (ie, isn’t missing a key component then branded as a WinModem, WinPrinter, WinScanner, etc)
    2. Can be taken full advantage of with the free drivers. (ie, if I plug it in, I should be able to make the thing Just Work in about 20 seconds since the distro already shipped with the drivers).

    Usable and complete hardware shouldn’t be such a bloody fight to obtain. It’s in OEMs best interest to make it easy to obtain usable and complete hardware, even if it costs them a couple bucks more per unit (if nothing else, it’ll offset the cost of support for incomplete hardware in their outsourced customer neglect centers).

    To suggest that it should be a fight, and that we should be glad for it just because OEMs are starting to play some lip service, is entirely disingenuous. We’re not Mac users begging Apple for crumbs after all.

  78. iwantubuntu Says:

    I want that little green dragon in a futuristic but simple and elegant case.
    I want to follow the ubuntu cult.
    It wont be a posh mac or a tacky dell, a ubuntu masterpiece.
    A brand on its own, a third outsider, a rebellious look.
    The starts are aligned, make that call to china suppliers
    The time is now…

  79. Harlem Quijano Says:

    One decent computer with a significant amount of bells and whistles – ~$1000
    RAM upgrade – $75
    The Vista OS pre-installed “tax” – $75 (I don’t really know the price just a guess)
    Having UPS drop ship the computer, powering it up, then promptly installing favorite linux distro –


  80. Mark Says:

    Speaking for myself, I want to be able to tell people to buy a certain model of computer – and it will come with Linux installed and all of the devices working properly.

    The last 3 people I tried to convert to Ubuntu were never able to use it because they couldn’t get wireless to work.

  81. Mel Says:

    Small OEMs are already selling some nice systems…like Shafetech and System76.

  82. Brent Miller Says:

    Instead of companies like Dell and HP providing computers with a Linux distribution, I think a better solution would be to provide 100% Linux compatible solutions. These computers may initially ship with Windows or no OS at all, but would contain hardware that is certified to work with Linux. Perhaps, these solutions would ship with a cd (or available on their website) with all the needed drivers. So if they offer a Linux certified notebook with multimedia keys, embedded camera, sound card, etc; there are either company developed drivers or community-developed drivers available to use. That way, these vendors don’t have to worry about supporting the “Matrix” of distributions and they could even push the non-hardware support out to a community-driven model.

  83. Scott Rubin Says:

    I’d be very happy if pre-built computer manufacturers made technical support, as well as pre-installed software, optional instead of mandatory. For desktop computers this is not really a problem because us fussy Linux users will build our own from parts we purchase separately. This is a problem really only on laptops.

    I just bought a Fujitsu P7230, but I could not get it without Windows Vista pre-installed. I got Home Basic because it was the cheapest. Not only did it have Windows pre-installed, it also has a bunch of other Fujitsu software pre-installed. Even if I was still a Windows user, I would be unhappy.

    Tech support and all pre-installed software, including the OS, should be optional. Choosing to not have these things should significantly reduce the cost of the machine to the consumer without costing the manufacturer much extra at all.

  84. Stefan Says: sells pcs with linux installed

  85. steveoc Says:

    Nooooooooo !!

    We all understand how the current linux market works, and we are not suggesting that changes any time soon. ie – Informed individuals custom build their own systems (be that hardware and or operating systems) to suit their own needs.

    We are not talking about that, and its not something that will ever impact Dell in a big way.

    We are talking about the awful imbalances in the ‘mainstream’ market that need addressing.

    You mention an anecdote about a clueless consumer accidentally buying a linux box and wondering why it wont run some package he purchased off a shelf. Yes, well, that is exactly the sort of scenario that should concern us all. That is the sad state of the world that we currently live in, and that is the world we are trying to change. MY world is OK – I already have all my custom built linux boxes up and running and doing what needs to be done. Its the rest of the world that I need to interact with that is the source of the problem.

    I want to change it.

    I want to wake up one morning to a world where Windows is NOT the norm.

    And this WILL happen, as soon as alternatives are placed on an equal footing by vendors such as Dell. And I say this in the sincere belief that the average consumer would be far better off living in a world where Linux was the norm – not Windows. So lets bring that day forward.

    Microsoft has had its day as top dog, and unfortunately for all of us, didnt make the best use of that opportunity. Greed and fear got the better of them, and now we all had to suffer because of it. Its well overdue time to move on.

    Offering a machine with a blank hard disk has absolutely NO VALUE to the ‘average consumer’, and is frankly, insulting. Its telling people loud and clear that if they dont want to play by Microsoft’s rules, then life SHOULD be harder for them. Offering the same thing to ‘the average linux user’ has no value either – since they may as well go fully DIY and build their own machine.

    I want to see Dell offer Linux on an even footing with Windows, since that is a step towards righting the wrongs that are currently in place. I want to see Dell lead by example and profit at the same time. I want to see Dell stand up to Microsoft.

    THAT is what we are saying on ideastorm.

  86. :: 14 March 2007 :: Shuttleworth, Dell, and IdeaStorm Says:

    […] So, Mark Shuttleworth is someone I really respect. It’s hard not to respect the person behind Ubuntu and so much else. Now he has penned an blog entry about the Dell/Linux/IdeaStorm that really says it all, I think. Users want linux, but they want it to come pre-installed in a nice and tidy little box, just like when they order a new windows computer. […]

  87. Kent Says:

    So what if there are different distros, how is that so much different than Windows different editions, like “home edition”, “media edition”, “Professional Edition”. In some cases distros are so different I’m sure that there are issues. I’m new, I use SimplyMEPIS and have looked at OpenSuSE, Edubuntu and Damn Small Linux, and I can preform most of the basics. From all I have heard, if you can run Red Hat/Fedora, SuSE/OpenSuSE, and Ubuntu, then you pretty much know how to work with almost all Linux, and I am sure that they those 3 types are similar in many ways, too.

  88. rubso Says:

    IMHO, Linux isn’t ready for this huge market.
    because it’s a little bit slower than other OSs, yet It is bundled with the buggiest softwares on the planet, and the average user won’t be satisfied when using “Crap Out-of-the-box”.

  89. Edmundo Says:

    rubso: are you sure you are talking about Linux or you were addressing Windows? 😀

  90. SafariBans Says:

    I like your example regarding wanting a dell with an intel chipset to use the free driver… Since that’s exactly what I did. :)
    I took the survey, and in the case of the dell laptops I’ve used.
    First thing I did when I got my laptop is to just wipe windows. A few weeks back my dad was complaining about how you can’t get a dell machine (well a non-business one) without Windows.
    So some people do want it, and those should be the types to pick it up, not as you said, some user just looking for a cheap windows machine.

    Anyway, besides canonical teaming up with dell (in terms of support options) and making it clear what Linux is… I doubt dual-boot will be allowed due to agreements with MS. I mean come on, even the Linux survey page at the top says Dell recommends Vista Business. Every single OEM vendor I’ve ever seen, regardless of what OS they offer, recommend Windows, with the same exact wording. There are times I wish we could see these secret MS agreements, but that one is obvious…

    I would bet that another “rule” is no dual or triple boots. For those further interested, go ahead and google MS BeOS and dual boot…

  91. Jonadab Says:

    As a technical user, all I want is fully working, fully standard hardware. That’s it. On the face of it, this ought, theoretically, to be simple.

    I don’t care what is pre-installed. I’m going to repartition and install what I really want anyway. They could preinstall something totally off the wall like QNX for all the difference it makes to me.

    But if I go to install my OS and find that random hardware components don’t work without proprietary drivers that only support certain operating systems, I’m not going to be pleased.

    And I’m not a big fan of bleeding-edge hardware standards either. If there’s a new kind of bus, form factor, or drive controller that’s going to be the “next big thing”, I don’t really want to deal with it until it’s been around for several years and the software people have had time to debug their support for it.

  92. Vyacheslav Goltser Says:

    What I want from a ‘Linux’ system is:
    1. Don’t lie to me about being able to change components (MiniPCI WiFi card in a certain laptop)
    2. Be more exact with specifications (What chip exactly is on that card, does it say RaLink, Intel, Broadcom, etc?)
    3. Don’t run when you hear Linux because the problem is with the BIOS which only allows boot with a WiFi card in its whitelist. Train your tech support.

    HP selling Linux computers? They sold me a laptop which crippleware.

    “IMHO, Linux isn’t ready for this huge market.
    because it’s a little bit slower than other OSs”

    rubso, Linux is slower in what regard? Adaptation of new concepts (Compiz/Beryl do way more GUI effects than Vista or OS X). Slower as in speed? Then you sir are confused.

    NTFS = 14 years old (released in 1993)
    EXT3 = 6 years old (released in 2001)

    EXT4 will be ready this year for production systems (read: STABLE) this year, I don’t see Microsoft’s promised WinFS …

    Between Win98 and WinXP, Microsoft created better hardware compatability, after releasing 2 horrible OS (Win2k without SP is no better than WinME which is argued as the worst product MS ever put out). Ubuntu comes out every 6 months and something always becomes better …

  93. JMXZ Says:

    The majority of Linux users here are not “6.06.1 of Ubuntu, or 10.2 of SuSE, or Fedora 6” users, but fall into 2 camps:

    * Firefox/Thunderbird users who barely realize it’s not Windows (like my mom),

    * Users of whatever their work installed (like most of my co-workers).

    So if Dell gets any Linux running, it’ll satisfy most people’s needs.

    Furthermore, for the niche audience who cares about the difference between 6.06.1 or 6.06.2 – or even Gentoo vs Ubuntu — the fact that Dell made sure all their hardware/firmware works with at least one Linux is a big improvement over the current states.

  94. JMXZ Says:

    Microsoft co-marketing funds aren’t the only extra cash Dell gets for Windows installs.

    I used to work for one of he leading oem-preinstalled-sofware vendors (8 of the top 10 OEMs pre-installed our software) – and we paid some OEMs generously for the privilege of putting a feature-reduced version of our software on their desktop. We would make our money from the upgrades later. In some cases we paid the OEMs up front; and in other cases we shared upgrade revenue with them.

    Other ways PC OEMs get paid:
    * default browser settings (google search)
    * Anti-Virus subscriptions

    Until Linux gets as big an adware/crippleware/spyware ecosystem as Windows has I think users should expect that Linux computers will cost more. But that’s OK – you get what you pay for. And if Linux is at least a factory supported option people can feel safe that manually installing Linux can be made to work even on the cheaper Windows versions of the same computer.

  95. Shuttleworth’s Responds to Dell at Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth has posted a responds to Dell’s Linux survey on his blog. He brings up two main observations: the first being that “margins on PC’s are razor-thin” and the second being that “free software fans are a fussy crowd.” Both of these observations are presented in a way that seems to say it will be hard [impossible?] to make a profit with Linux on Dells. Unfortunately, Shuttleworth doesn’t offer any solutions to these hesitations. […]

  96. Phil Howard Says:

    Some of us just want a machine that has the right devices in it that will work in Linux (any distro running the maintree Linux kernel), possibly limited to drivers with source available. But many of us want to avoid the Microsoft tax, if not for the personal savings, at least just to keep Bill’s hands off of it. So it would seem a PC with no OS would be just right.

    But OEMs still need to support the hardware (that’s why you’re buying from them instead of building your own, right?). For that, I suggest a Linux based live DVD. In its basic form, it would include all the vendor diagnostic tools. If you need to call the vendor about the ethernet not working, you run the live DVD (doesn’t write on the hard drive) and go to diagnostics. It then checks the ethernet and provides diagnostic codes for the vendor to use to determine what needs to be fixed or replaced. Any distro will do for this, possibly even a custom one. But a stock distro like Ubuntu could so easily be tweaked (add tools and a few RC script changes) to serve all that’s needed. And it can double as a rescue disk, real work disk, and a re-install tool if you want to use the distro contained on it. The issue of the vendor is supporting it. If some distro maker were to package a variation of their distro designed for vendor diagnostic/testing purpose for otherwise no-OS PCs, maybe they could go for that and start making PCs that work with any of our favorite distros (at least those based on a recent kernel).

  97. Roberto J. Dohnert Says:

    ” i’m getting so sick and tired of hearing excuses and rationalizations. just put the cd in the cupholder, install it and sell it. period. there’s no need to analyze or certify. what is so hard about this? ”

    Let me ask you this, since the car analogy is so famous in the OSS community, would you go to a detroit car factory and volunteer to drive a new car that just came off the production line without it being tested first? Dell and other OEM’s do have to choose which distribution to support and stick to their guns. They cant support every distro of Linux on the market.

  98. hswerdfe Says:

    Mark I appreciated everything you have said above.

    I have given my feedback to dell explicitly.
    I have also given my feedback to several other vender’s while talking to the sales staff last time I was shopping for a laptop.

    To be honest All I want is, When Shopping I want to be able to easily determine what the current state of the hardware is with respect to Linux. What components have Opensource/BLOB drivers. I want them to make an effort to make a good portion of there laptops work 100% with Linux. I only want them to support Drivers for Linux. and I would like to be able to purchase a computer without software at the same price as with.

  99. Mark Demma Says:

    You don’t have to support “Windows Users” … you have to support Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2000 Super Dooper Really Extra Advanced Server…. the what is it, 12 different versions of Vista … so even suggesting that somehow Windows support is SO much easier because it is monolithic is just, well silly. Linux users may be fussy, but they are also very very self sufficient.

    Razor thin margins you say, gee, wouldn’t that lead one to think “Gee, if we could not have to pay that $100 a PC to MicroSoft, we could increat profit!”. Co-marketing funds? I’ll bet ya a bag of chips that PC makers pay MS WAY more than they get back in co-marketing funds… these have traditionally been used as a stick to beat PC makers with … don’t slap “Made for Windows” stickers all over a PC and your web site and we’ll make you pay even more!

    Lets face it, the REAL reason PC makers can’t afford to pre install Linux is because MS would squash them Lets cut the BS here.

  100. Adrian Says:

    PC Vendors only need to put one stable operating system across all PCs. As long as a PC can connect, download burn and run, then one distro is enough surely?

  101. Metro Says:

    My second post in this topic to say this:

    The laptop is the best option to make to work. The closed hardware that you buy make the best option to have full support with the right .iso.
    I think company’s can see the potential. If we have a DVD with Ubuntu with full drivers and codecs for all and have also a few programs like for example VMware server already installed also (the EULA from them dont allow to have it for example with automatix2…).
    I see many advantages from the future CNR version. There is room for software that is not free. The Linux advantage is that you have a base system that is. The only hurdle to overcome is having the hardware working from the start.

    The other peace of hardware I think is worth to try is PS3 because there is a close hardware and the specs are good for the price. I look forward for is arrival in Europe and what it can bring with it.

    To finish the option to have PCs or laptops with Ubuntu brand is also something to think.

  102. HT Says:

    About margins: What if they offer no free support whatsoever to people who buy Linux? If a customer accidentally orders a system with Linux, and calls in to complain, charge regular support call cost and only offer to sell them a Windows license as remedy. Also, you could sell the Linux system at the same price as the Windows system, which would alleviate some or all of the problems with Linux support issues. Maybe you could even add a little Linux premium, which would help against ignorant bargain hunters.

    I would be happy to buy a system that was without OS, came with an installation media for one of the top 3-5 Linux distros (no OEM customizations preferably, but if there are, make clear what they are), was certified to work with the default install options, and had absolutely no free support. Heck, I could live even with no support from the OEM. I would be willing to pay the same price as the Windows system, maybe even up to 5% higher. The reason is that nowadays when I look to buy a Linux laptop I spend days or weeks researching in advance, have to configure the system over several days, and in the end have to settle on something that won’t work 100% (like failing to suspend or hibernate).

  103. Nick Andrew Says:

    I think the most important thing is that linux provides hardware support for the devices in the computer. It’s no fun buying a notebook (say) and then finding out that no linux driver exists for the ethernet or WiFi because the manufacturer releases it without specifications and Dell (or whoever) doesn’t require linux compatibility before building it into a machine. If Dell can simply ensure that linux supports all devices in their computer, that will be a huge improvement.

  104. Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth Talks about Pre-Installed Linux PC’s - CyberNet News Says:

    […] Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has spoken up on his personal blog what he feels about the recent happenings with Dell, and the possibility that users will be offered the chance to have some distribution of Linux (such as Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, or Fedora) pre-installed on a new PC. […]

  105. cantormath Says:

    I think that we should boycott the companies that boycott linux until this is issue is resolved, not as a solution but as an extra incentive.

    I have been trying to compile such a list here:

    I have it broken into 3 sections. Boycott, Moderate, and Accepted. These lists are of companies who are boycotting linux from a hardware point of view. Specifically, companies that are particularly boycotting Linux or contributing to hardware companies that do not support linux by selling incompatiable hardware.

    Here is our boycott list:
    1) Sony
    2) Broadcom
    3) Lexmark printers
    4) Asus
    5) Creative
    6) Via
    7) S3 Graphics Co. Ltd
    8 ) Airlink
    9) HughNet (Direcway Satellite systems)
    10) SpaceCam
    11) Line6
    12) OKI (Printers)
    13) Canon
    14) Ricoh (Copiers etc)
    15) D-Link (wireless cards)
    16) Toshiba (not necessarily a hardware manufacture),
    27) ATI.

    and here is our acceptance list:
    1) Intel
    2) Nvidia
    3) Visioneer (scanner)
    4) HP (except special key functions on keyboards).
    5) AMD
    6) Brother
    7) Orinoco (wireless)
    8 )GIGABYTE Technology (First Motherboard using LinuxBios)
    9) Twinhead (Redhat and Solaris Certifed Laptops)
    10) Seagate (external hard drives)
    11) Digium ( Open Source telecommunications supplier, PBX stuff etc)
    12) Ralink
    13) Maxtor (Hard drives)
    14) Umax Astra ( ie, 2000U scanner)
    15) Atheros (wireless)
    17) Sun Microsystems

    We are still looking for more companies and are open to suggestions.

  106. SafariBans Says:

    I want to reply to the poster above, I have hughesnet dish service, I hate the FAP limitation, but I was able to use their stuff by activating/registering via firefox under Ubuntu… I didn’t need to install any software to use their modem… I have used 2 of their modems, all through ethernet and plugged into my router…

  107. stelt Says:

    Just show people there’s plenty of support, even nearby: add yourself to the free(er) software world map at

  108. bobby Says:

    Dell provides no support for MS Windows.. unless you purchase that support. Talking about support as a generically available thing is a red herring. So, too, is the FUD of “Linux has many distros”, “MS Windows, one”..
    A) MS has many versions of its cripple ware, & no, they are _not_ the same.
    B) Dell need only install one version of one distro. Users will be able to change that if they wish.

    What is needed is for corporate & home america to see that a major computer vendor considers Linux/X to be a viable desktop option. That is why it must be preinstalled. Yes, we ‘power users’ will install our OS of Choice.. but then, we always have. That is not the point. Dell offering a choice of MS Windows OR Linux/X (& LinuxMint (Ubuntu) would be an excellent choice for a ‘works out of the box’ system) on all (or at least nearly all) preinstalled on a system would send the world a message. The message of “Linux/X is a Real System”, _not_ a toy. Many corporations & home users consider a thing useful only to the degree that a company sells it. Sad, but true.. america (I am unable to comment on the state of the rest of the world) has traded the ‘can do’ attitude for one of ‘do it for me’. Being able to buy a ‘check my mail, write reports/homework, browse the web, look at pictures from my camera, play music/videos etc’ computer from a major vendor is the thing that will propel Linux/X into the forefront.

  109. Kevin Mark Says:

    Hi Mark,
    As I read you post and some of the comments, I thought this:
    PC part cost + Dell Windows support cost + MS os OEM cost – MS and others ‘Payola’ = Dell/MS PC cost
    PC part cost = Dell bare bones or Linux PC cost
    Currenly ‘bare bones’ cost > Dell/MS PC cost. so:
    PC parts cost > PC parts cost + Dell Windows support cost + MS os OEM cost – MS and others ‘Payola’
    MS and others ‘Payola’ > Dell Windows support cost + MS os OEM cost
    It seems that “MS and other ‘Payola'” = ‘Dell’s PC profits’.
    This would mean that Dell and other vendors profits are coming directly from ‘Payola’.
    So what chance can an OS that, by its very nature, can not provide ‘Payola’ have in getting it installed?
    But it seems that the amount any company can provide for this payola will decrease and has decreased in the past as software becomes ‘cheaper’ and more of a commodity.
    Perhaps Canonical or other vendors can offer to give ‘payola’ to give support cupons for 6 months. People have no problem paying the huge prices for MS support, ours should be cheaper, no? And this would offset the need for Dell to offer support, which seems to be a factor.
    -Kevin Mark

  110. Danni Coy Says:

    I think what is coming clear here is what really needs to happen is that somebody needs to convince there is economic value in producing “open” hardware and labeling it as such. This would personally be the first thing I would look for in a product either for myself or when shopping for others. I feel that “open hardware” tends to have a longer lifetime (more likely to just work not just under alternative operating systems but also newer versions of the Mainstream ones) and tend to be of a higher quality standard. Having a sticker that said open-hardware on the box would help me a great deal when purchasing new hardware. Presumably if Dell could build a configuration using all “open” hardware this would make myself and a lot of respondants happy.

  111. Danni Coy Says:

    I guess I should define “Open” hardware. By that I mean that the specs are available…. This does not necessarily mean that there are Linux drivers available just that there are no barriers imposed on those being created.

  112. TechTear :: T_T » Mark Shuttleworth: Linux y OEMs Says:

    […] Fuente: Blog de Shuttleworth                               […]

  113. pHr34kY Says:


    I don’t think the fussiness of Linux enthusiasts is a problem. They will still buy a PC pre-bundled with Linux because it will be cheaper. They’ll probably format the and install their favourite linux distro withougt even bothering to boot the preinstalled OS, but they’re happy because they’re not killing an OS that they just paid money for.

    What you really need to do is start pushing Linux to the ignoramus that are the bulk of end users nowadays. The market would then be:
    – Users who will run preinstalled Linux from the box
    – Users who will install their own non-Windows OS
    – Users who already own a non-OEM copy of Windows (no additional profit to Microsoft)
    – Users who plan to install a pirated copy of Windows (no profit to Microsoft)

    Any of the above who lack the skills to assemble their own PC from parts will probably end up being forced to fork out for an OEM copy of Windows against their will. If you ship PCs with Linux, the only people who will buy a PC with Windows pre-installed are people who actually want Windows and don’t already own a copy.

  114. Gary Olson Says:

    “…looking at ways to change the model so that there’s a better fit between customer expectations and the economics of the industry.” I suggest the solution is to change the economics of the industry. Windows desktop OS is a loss leader to sell Windows applications and Windows Server OS. If the Linux Community were to make a reasonable payment for the desktop OS and server support contracts, free applications would be economically viable. A linked and financially stable desktop OS and server OS would provide an effective groundwork for a plethora of diverse affordable (free) applications.

  115. Stephen Samuel Says:

    It would be silly for Dell to sell a machine with Binary Blob drivers — if something goes wrong with OS drivers, *the community* will fix it. If something goes wrong with BB drivers, then users will *have to* go back to Dell for support. In terms of minimizing support costs, full OS is the way to go for an OEM.

  116. Chris Says:

    We need to be less picky- but I think the biggest problem is they don’t actually have laptops that are designed for Linux. If they did every distribution with the latest kernel out of the box would likely support the computer.

  117. Tony Yarusso Says:

    My main request would just be to get hardware configurations that are known to work with stock Linux kernels, and to have SOME Linux distro pre-installed, to just get it out there on the market. Chances are that I personally am going to whip out my Ubuntu CD and reinstall, manually configuring partitions with LVM and multiple filesystem types, etc., but I want the Linux-curious and somewhat adept but completely non-expert person to be able to buy a Linux box as well.

  118. tecosystems » links for 2007-03-15 Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth » Blog Archive » Pre-installing Linux good reality check from Mark on pre-installing Ubuntu; talked to a reporter about this subject just this morning (tags: MarkShuttleworth Ubuntu preinstall Linux desktop) […]

  119. cyber_rigger Says:


    I’ve been tracking Linux vendors for a while now.
    Ubuntu seems to be the most popular choice for vendors (Oct 03, 2006).

    It is getting easier to buy pre-inststalled (desktop) Linux,

    We need to concentrate and promote the vendors THAT DO OFFER Linux
    and not whine about (or do business with), (or even mention) the ones that don’t.

    We need some articles hyping the Linux vendors,
    For example:
    “The Linux Laptop Shootout”, offerings from the top 5 Linux vendors.
    The articles should ONLY INCLUDE preinstalled Linux vendors.

    Preinstalled Linux vendors. has made a database from the list I started.

    Vendor count offering Linux Desktops (Oct 03, 2006):

    24 (18.05%) Ubuntu
    20 (15.04%) Suse
    19 (14.29%) Fedora
    18 (13.53%) Linspire
    11 (8.27%) Redhat
    8 (6.02%) Debian
    8 (6.02%) Xandros
    6 (4.51%) Mandriva
    5 (3.76%) Gentoo
    4 (3.01%) Centos
    4 (3.01%) Slackware
    2 (1.50%) mephis
    1 (0.75%) ELX
    1 (0.75%) Frontier
    1 (0.75%) Icepack
    1 (0.75%) PclinuxOS

    Vendor count offering Linux Laptops/Notebooks:

    13 (22.03%) Ubuntu
    10 (16.95%) Fedora
    10 (16.95%) Suse
    5 (8.47%) Debian
    5 (8.47%) Redhat
    4 (6.78%) Centos
    3 (5.08%) Linspire
    3 (5.08%) Mandriva
    2 (3.39%) Gentoo
    2 (3.39%) Slackware
    1 (1.69%) emperorlinux
    1 (1.69%) mandrake

  120. Mark Shuttleworth a proposito della Questione Linux PC « Says:

    […] Marzo 15th, 2007 Mark Shuttleworth scrive nel suo blog a proposito della “questione Dell”; mi permetto di offrirvi una mia traduzione. […]

  121. sam Says:

    Why doesn’t canonical sell its own PC brand with support?

  122. Danny Vader Says:

    First time someone from the community says something clever about this. He’s absolutely right. I am small systembuilder , have no contract with MS whatsoever but the problem with offering a Linux distro is support. First : i am not going to sell more pc’s just because i am offering Linux. I will sell less Windows pc’s . So the revenue is the same but i have to support those Linux pc’s…So why bother. Revenue will be same or worse less. The margins on PC’s are razor-thin and there is no money for most builders/retailers to experiment.

  123. BLOGical Thoughts » Thursday, 15 March, 2007 Says:

    […] Pre-installing Linux […]

  124. flint Says:

    Dear Mark,

    While you are indeed accurate in your positive statements as to how to solve bug #1, thanks to your (you and your brilliant teams :^) efforts, I discover that I have become more ignorant. This morning, I had to spend several minutes to discover the expansion of the acronyms WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) and WGN (Windows Genuine Notification). When I researched these acronyms what I found out about the end of personal privacy really scared me. I must attribute my ignorance of these insidious products to you (plural). It appears my ignorance is directly the result of running a single boot Ubuntu system for the last 2 years. I languish in this ignorance, and due to my lack of interest or need for proprietary systems that advantage themselves over their customers, it appears that my economic viability as a consultant is diminished. Simultaneously, I revel in my ignorance of operating systems incursion into my personal computer. Thanks for the ignorance! I suspect this feature of invasive operating systems on the part of the Micro$oft Corporation may be their contribution to the mitigation of bug #1.

    Kindest Regards,

    Paul Flint

  125. dave shemano Says:

    all i want is to not pay the microsoft tax and to have an assurance that when i pop in my fresh new ubuntu it will probably run. also an official, uncensored dell forum to sort out the rough spots.

  126. lyceum Says:

    There are a wide range of really good points here from Mark and from many other people. My 2 cents,

    1. Why do PC’s come preinstalled with an OS? When I bought my first PC it came with a copy windows 95. Why does this not happen any more? The customer gets less and less and the corporations get more and more. I think you should by your PC as, warranties on the parts. If you want an OS installed, to costs the price of the OS. How hard would it be for Dell or anyone to go to distrowatch, look at the list and offer the most popular ones? Windows is just another OS on a VERY long list of options. Sadly they have created a world with the blinds shut, so not many realize that Mac is not their only other option.

    2. Canonical should sell PC’s and offer support bundled into the cost of the PC for the first year. If they started small with out many options and moved up, it could work. If they did, I for one would only buy from them, as I am an Ubuntu fan boy. Ubuntu has many loyal followers out there. That is free advertising. It could happen.

    my 2 cents…

  127. bob Says:

    Sony specifically designed the Playstation 3 to install others OS’s like Linux.

    So they shouldn’t be on your boycott list.

    You can install Fedora, YDL, etc etc onto your PS3. It makes a great Linux P.C. for most people in addition to the other capabilities.

    Give credit where and when it’s due. Just another reason companies like Dell need to wake up.

    More and more people are shifting their traditional idea of a PC to a multi-media centric viewpoint and PC’s fail miserably in comparison to the alternatives.

    They are going to lose sales to the PS3 – (especially if Sony installs Linux by default in the future) – and to the rise of the Mac.

    Linux was/is their only defence…but in order to make *that* pay-off they will need to use their considerable influence to get the hardware vendors to support Linux – and make it just as good of a multi-media experience as the Playstation 3 or Mac.

    They better get moving…otherwise it’s about to get much worse.

  128. » Shuttleworth on pre-installing Linux Says:

    […] “There’s been a tremendous level of interest in the fact that pre-installed Linux is the #1 rated suggestion on Dell’s IdeaStorm. On the face of it, there is little question that Linux pre-installation is popular with customers. Why, then, is it so difficult to buy a PC in the US or Europe that has Linux on the hard drive?”read more | digg story […]

  129. Says:

    Les dificultats per aconseguir Linux preinstal·lat als PC…

    Arran de la ja famosa notícia (o campanya?) de Dell, Mark Shuttleworth, l’impulsor d’Ubuntu, explica al seu Bloc les dificultats que tindran les diferents distribucions de GNU/linux per aconseguir que a les botigues en posin preinsatal·lades als PC…

  130. [Slashdot] Stories for 2007-03-15 at Kaizenlog Says:

    […] […]

  131. iwantubuntu Says:

    System76, there you have it Mr Shuttleworth, see? nice boxens but… we want better!
    It has to have the little green dragon as mascot, you know, the new cult.
    Different prices, for different tastes, but all UBUNTU!
    I’d specialize in mini pcs and laptops, huge desktops are so 90s.

    Oh, and don’t forget style, like Apple, Vaio or Fujitsu, spend a little on it, it has to be beautiful!

  132. Ubuntu | Freddy Martinez: Frustration. Says:

    […] On to other news, as SABDFL wrote getting Linux on a machine preinstalled in a *mighty* feat. He is right, we are a fickle bunch. We want emacs or vim, KDE or GNOME, RPM or DEB and a million other things. However, we know what we want. Does Joe Average user know what they want? Can Dell or any other company support the multitude of problems that may arise. Hang around #ubuntu on IRC long enough and you’ll see everything from printers not working to webcams to weird X errors. However, 99% of the problems do have a fix, the pressure would be on Dell to hire knowledgeable staff, but I say go for it. On a side note, I generally respect Slashdot very much but the naming of their title about Mark’s blog was a bit misleading to me. […]

  133. Mario Miyojim Says:

    Joint venture: Canonical and Dell should work together in this. Dell assembles the hardware and continues to install Windows as usual. Installation, test and support of Linux machines go through the Canonical section. In case many people require other distributions, make the same deal with RedHat, Novell etc.
    I think it would be viable. Dell would function as a hardware supplier only for Linux machines, and Canonical would be physically nearby to facilitate transportation (just-in-time fashion). The user end price would be decided by Canonical, depending on its own needs.

    The other alternative I saw written elsewhere was for Canonical to have vertical integration, i.e., handle the hardware assembly and software installation. This might end up being less cost-effective for Canonical. If the joint venture does not work well, then Canonical could try this avenue.
    It all depends on what are the goals of Mr. Shuttleworth. If his intention is to increase acceptance of Linux and open source without profit, then it would be a great chance to do it massively. Otherwise, it is upt to him.
    He could do a similar deal with HP, if Dell allows it, or maybe HP ends up competing with a joint venture with RedHat.

  134. John J. Macey Says:


    Thanks for that shout-out. Obviously there are issues, but the world will turn, and I think that the PC makers are aware of the new turn of things.

    Mark — great job with Ubuntu!

    Phoenix, Arizona

  135. phil Says:

    When NO has got to be the answer, there is always a way to justify the decision.

    Dell knows there is money on the table. They stare at it but don’t take any. The pile keeps getting larger. Meanwhile, bills have to be paid. Still they look and don’t touch. Why? Hint, none of the points in the article would stop an aggressive hungry company.

    Dell can do some simple things to get started:
    1) Get their drivers into
    2) advertise on their website the Linux kernel version needed to support the system.
    3) offer the system with no-OS for less than the cost of the same system with OS.

    They won’t even do this. It doesn’t cost much (its almost free) and they can take some of that money off of the table.

    Don’t confuse Dell with a company that is hungry to make money. They are not. They are fat and satisfied with what they have.

  136. David Mackey Says:

    One option to reduce the Microsoft marketing bonus hit is something I can see companies like IBM, Sun Microsystems, etc. taking part in – a counter marketing funding.

  137. Mark Mathson Says:

    If we all continue to do our part, solving Bug #1, is certainly a possible reality. I am a firm believer in open source, and now can see my personal tech use changing in a positive way because of it.

    I did the survey and put in my two cents.

  138. Stomfi Says:


    I am a fan of Ubuntu because it works on all sorts of hardware, has easy package management, and includes acx_pci for use with firmware, runs my old HP 1100 Laser on a 64bit Athlon nVidia MB. I use the 32bit version as I use Wine, and for some reason it seems to run faster anyway.

    You may be able to tell me why Dell can’t do hardware support with only Dell compiled modules for each of their machines, and you and all the other distro suppliers include the Dell modules package and updates repository for identified Dell hardware.

    This seems to work for nVidia Motherboards and video cards, so why can’t it work for other hardware components.

    It would be good if you could persuade Dell that this is the way to go as it would continue the level playing field we’ve all grown to love, and can choose our distro based on what it can do for us.

    My other reason is that such a strategy would also allow individual PC shops to use their own expertise and preferences, even though they would be using Dell hardware. I imagine if Dell did this, it would force the other hardware vendors to follow suit and the level of hardware support for drivers would be unstoppable.

    Dell could still play their preferred distro games, and even install them, but their support commitments would only have to cover hardware modules and not all the application software and utilities, which would remain under the aegis of the distro suppliers as it should be.

  139. Trevor Turton Says:

    The desktop computer won’t be around for ever. It’s bulky, heavy, and pretty unportable. Laptops are only somewhat better. The mobile phone already delivers more compute power and memory to our pockets and purses than NASA used to put the first men on the moon. Let’s not focus all our time and energy on capturing the desktop, only to find that the market has moved elsewhere, leaving us behind again. I believe that mobile-based applications, with suitable docking stations for when you really want the big screen experience, will replace most desktops and laptops over the next 5 years. I have blogged about this at Let’s make sure that we’re defining the new paradigms rather than chasing after them.

  140. mdm-adph Says:

    @ Gabriel Villalobos

    They already have. Microsoft lost a court case in America about whether or not they were a monopoly. [United States v. Microsoft 87 F. Supp. 2d 30 (D.D.C. 2000)] They were ordered to split apart the company into two companies — one to work on the OS and the other to work on all of their applications.

    It was later overturned in appeal once the Bush Administration got control of the Department of Justice.

  141. venkat Says:

    System76 does sell preinstalled Ubuntu boxes but PCs with similar configuration with windows from Dell are cheaper.
    I can always get a Dell PC and install Ubuntu. why would I pay that price premium to System76 for pre-installing linux for me?
    but I might be willing to pay that if Dell offers it, only initially, though. but eventually price should come down than a windows PC?
    remember if price goes higher, we have the Mac alternative. Price & the overall computing experience does matter for The average consumer

  142. David A Forshaw Says:

    Hardware should be sold as hardware, OS Free.

    A Knoppix like cd, bootable from the drive can test if hardware is working on delivery. That should be adequate for the vendor to check claims of faulty goods, especially as it will be the vendors disk.

    Purchaser can then install any software they would choose… including XP Pro… if they wished.

    But a flat charge for installation by the vendor should be levied for the installation of any chosen OS.

    The usual more machines cost less applies.

  143. Simone Brunozzi Says:

    I don’t like Dell’s survey,
    1. They are hiding results;
    2. They are not mentioning the Trusted Computing thing.

    I prepared MY version of that survey, both in italian and english.
    The english one is here:

    Let me know what you think.

  144. Pre-installing Linux at Jeremy’s Blog Says:

    […] Mark recently posted about OEM preinstalled Linux. This is a topic I’ve covered on my blog multiple times. The razor thin margins are definitely a big part of the equation, especially when coupled with Microsoft co-marketing dollars. The current OEM market is in a precarious position. Most of their margins are made up of either those Microsoft dollars or money that comes from preinstalled software. Unfortunately, as a recent Dell poll shows, those are precisely the things a lot of people don’t want. So what’s an OEM to do? Supporting Linux from their perspective isn’t as easy as some seem to think it is. What distro(s) do you chose and what level of support do you offer? I think the best toe dip option is going to come from the mix of a “NO OS” option on every model coupled with the option of getting a separate Linux disk. Each model that has a hardware config that will 100% work with open drivers should be marked as such. This initial step would be a huge one, but we’re not there yet. The next step would be the OEM picking a distribution or two (maybe one commercial and one community) that it feels comfortable with and offering those as legitimate preloaded options. That’s when Linux will have arrived in the mainstream. I think we can get there, but it’s not going to be a quick or easy path. Nothing worthwhile ever is though. […]

  145. Martin Jasny Says:

    Dell should just sell PCs without any OS preinstalled, with the price of Windows and crap software deducted. They should do it for ANY PC from their product line.

    The rest will sort itself out.

    Why? Simply because you do have a wide choice of Linux distributions and none of them is perfect for all. There is no Linux distribution which will satisfy all your needs. Example: I use OCaml on Debian. It just works. But Debian stable has software which is many years old. Ubuntu brings you the latest software but it will not support OCaml, although Ubuntu is a Debian derivative (I got this information from the OCaml forum). So I stick with Debian stable and it is a hard decision.

    There are some other minor annoyances with Linux which I think are causing people looking for and trying new distributions all the time. So preinstalling any one for them will not be a good solution.

    Someone here on this page has posted an excellent idea: Dell should run a forum on using Linux on their computers.

  146. Moulinneuf Says:

    Why Ubuntu and Canonical is already shut out of the major OEM Desktop :

    Wall Street Journal discussing GNU/Linux desktop , scan the article , there is not a single mention of Ubuntu or Canonical.

    Now some people , Mostly working against you and your team will tell you , that this don’t mater , Let me explain something really clear , Based on first hand experience , it does mater , its the difference between being in the game and worth Billions like Red Hat or be a company that does the GNU/Linux thing like Mandriva and worth 7 – 10 million.

    Second the ties that bind , many uninformed people will point at Microsoft as the #1 company blocking GNU/Linux distribution on the desktop , Microsoft is actually #2 , the #1 company is Red Hat , Red hat with its clout on the market and the hears of the Big brand name manager have been saying for years that the GNU/Linux desktop is NOT ready , now one would think that showing them the contrary face to face will change there mind about it , but it doesn’t. SUSE and Now Novell are the same BTW , but there version is they are the only one with a desktop that work and everyone else don’t. (1)

    Also Michael Dell invested in Red Hat (2) , I seriously doubt he did the same in Canonical , and as you realized , them already painted you as *only a community project*.

    (1) It was Robert Young who started this when Mandriva started to become big , he stated that in many occasion that GNU/Linux was not ready for the desktop in those years ( 2000 ) , and that people should instead use Windows because Red Hat could not be perfect for everyone at the time.

    Matthew Szulik in 2003,1000000121,39117575,00.htm

    Linux still not ready for desktop, says SuSE CEO….


    BTW , Between Mandrake strategy of 1998-1999 and Mark Shuttleworth Ubuntu strategy of 2004 – 2007 only one of them as ever beaten *in sale* in the US market Red Hat #1 position. That’s not you … The difference between Mandrake in those years and Mandriva now is back then they listened to one individual who was doiong the work in the background , That same individual was the only one to openly questioned Mandrake Jacques Le Marois MacMillan exclusive deal for the entire North American Continent. You see when your winning you don’t brake your system to go on the cheap and sale out or accept terms that will block your distribution with exclusivity even less to a Book seller who sale software as a second business and who hide your #1 OS inside there website on page 75 , with 100 product by page before that 75 one , and when that same Distribution release a new version they dont bother to upgrade version or fix the picture that dont even render for your old product from that same exclusive vendor.

    I must be wrong Mandrake and Ubuntu/Canonical have nothing in common , its not like they are both distributor of Desktop GNU/Linux solutions , that they are #1 in there own time , Why do I see 99% similarity between the strategy used by Red Hat then to make Mandrake irrelevant and the same strategy applied now to Ubuntu … must be that I am pathetic , a troll and many other insults ,

    It cant be that I am using something like or and seeing the same painting of Ubuntu as Mandrake was , no because then that would make you the rich fool and me the wise expert who is trying to reach you before you are submitted and crushed by the same strategy.

    Strange all those thousand of new article about the GNU/Linux desktop that don’t discuss Ubuntu and Canonical at all that have just popped up all over the place … Mentioning that Dell would be wise to go with one or the other.

    Your not going to beat Red Hat by playing there game and following what they do , they have more experience and more resource and more people and more funds , Its going to be sad for me to see a repeat. Hopefully , I am wrong.

  147. ndumiso ncube Says:

    I hope I understand the issues here correctly [they seem to be rather complex]. Here’s my 2 cents:- The KEY solution to me seems to lie in preventing Microsoft from advancing the so-called “marketing contributions” to computer manufactures and resellers. This practice on the face of it appears to be somewhat problematic from a competition/anti-trust law standpoint. Sort this problem and OS is on its way […I don’t need to spelt out the benefits that will accrue to OS in having this practice stopped]. Although I know Mark hates “legalese” :^)….

  148. bob321c Says:

    Cheap Linux computers are now available by a joint venture of Linspire and Mirus Innovations. See for $299 basic or $399 loaded, certified Linux desktop computers!

    Major OEM Launches First-Ever Line of PCs Dedicated Exclusively to Linux

    Mirus Bets on Linspire Linux for New Line of “Koobox” Desktop Computers

    SAN DIEGO, January 4, 2006 – Linspire and Mirus Innovations today announced the launch of Koobox, the first-ever line of desktop computers offered by a major OEM to exclusively run Linux. Starting at just $299, the Koobox machines come outfitted with a complete Linspire Linux operating system, including a Microsoft Office file-compatible office suite, Internet browser, email, IM client, media players, and a photo manager – the equivalent of hundreds of dollars worth of software. Three versions of the Koobox are available, including a basic machine, multimedia machine with DVD player and a high-performance machine. For details, visit

    “The Koobox line is unique in that all of the computers are optimized for utilizing Linux exclusively,” said Kevin Carmony, CEO of Linspire, Inc. “In fact, none of these machines even offer Microsoft Windows as an option, which is a new, bold step for a major OEM. The fact that Mirus has devoted an entire brand to desktop Linux shows just how much ground Linux is gaining.”

    Three versions of the Koobox are available, giving consumers the option to pick the PC that’s right for them. At $299, the Essential Koobox is just right for basic computing – a perfect student machine or second home computer. The machine comes complete with CDRW drive, 5 USB ports, including a convenient front-side port, Internet keyboard and optical mouse, and 2W speakers. Inside, the machine rounds out with an AMD Sempron processor, 256 MB RAM, 40 GB hard drive, and onboard video and sound networks.

    For $399, consumers may purchase the Multimedia Koobox, which features the Essential Koobox specs plus DVD player software, a 16x Dual Layer DVD+RW drive, 512 MB RAM, and 160 GB hard drive. The Performance Koobox, priced at $499, adds a super-fast AMD 64-bit Athlon 3000+ Processor to the mix. All machines come with the full Linspire operating system, including complete office suite, virus filtering and Web protection software.

    All Koobox computers include a 90-day warranty, but for only $29 consumers can purchase an optional premium warranty with toll-free support and replacement parts. Other, expanded warranty options are available as well, including on-site technical support. For warranty details, see

    Koobox computers are specifically manufactured and shipped directly by Mirus, fully certified by Linspire and tested by quality of standards that are ISO 9001 certified and 100 percent compliant with industry standards. Backed by 15 years of service expertise with more than 4,000 certified engineers and technicians, as well as two call centers, Mirus provides a stable and reliable source for Koobox customers.

    “Consumers are demanding to have more choice in desktop Linux PCs,” said Richard Shyu of Mirus. “By dedicating an entire line to desktop Linux, we’re able to give consumers the choices they want with the sophisticated, complete end-user experience the Linspire Linux operating system brings to the home and institution PC market.”

    To purchase a Koobox, please visit

    About Linspire, Inc.

    Linspire, Inc. ( ) was founded in 2001 to bring choice into the operating system market. The company’s flagship product, the Linspire operating system, is an affordable, easy-to-use Linux-based operating system for home, school, and business users. Linspire pioneered CNR Technology, which allows Linspire users access to thousands of software programs, each of which can be downloaded and installed with just one mouse click. The more than 2,400 software titles available in the CNR Warehouse ( include full office and productivity suites, games, multimedia players, photo management software, accounting tools, and more.

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    For more information, please contact:

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  149. Mal Sterling Says:

    Dell make a good margin so that is no excuse. Best result, join a local Linux group and partner with willing small business computer retailers to provide Linux. We can force the big guys to change their ways if they lose sales to white box makers.

    PS. Would not buy a dell for any reason as I have worked on so many and have experience the (lack of) quality first hand.

  150. Says:

    Good Explanation Why We Don’t See More Pre-installed Linux Machines….

    Mark explains why there has been slow adoption of pre-installed Linux. Good read….

  151. oblonski Says:

    I have been using linux for a couple of years now, but i still dual-boot with win xp because of photoshop (the whole wine, vmware, xen virtualization thing just don’t do it), I am a graphics designer and also do video editing

    i live high up in the mountains in south africa and have only irDA and mobile broadband to connect my P4 to the internet

    it is basically impossible to find any way of making those things work with the linux distro’s I’ve tried (kubuntu, pclinuxos, knoppix, mandriva, fedora)
    the nearest I got was when dmesg picked up the Sigmatel irDA dongle under pclinuxos 0.93a, but that was it, nothing I did could make the dongle pick up my mobile phone, and hence the experiment was shelved…

    most help I found online (from my windows with irDA and mobile broadband working) suggests connecting to some site and following the instructions there, which is sort of silly when you can’t get online in the first place (if I did not have win xp)

    so my point is: the average man in the street wants a computer that does what he intends to do with it and not having to have a degree in computer science or hassling techie friends to play his games, surf the internet or play his dvd’s and mp3’s without jumping through a thousand hoops

    at the moment linux still remains too much of a technical mystery for your average user and while many distro’s goes a long way toward closing that gap, let us face it, commercially it still has not got all of it’s lines memorized for the prime time show

    businesses are established to make profit, first and foremost, and wanting mainstream consumers to adopt a product that appeals mostly to ‘tech-savvy geeks’ and that involves a lot of effort to work properly, wont attract many customers and thus won’t make any business sense, even to the most zealous of fanboys

    the efforts by mark and canonical etc with ubuntu goes a long way to educate and inform the public, also the rest of the community and their efforts need to be commended, but I suppose it will take a Bill Gates-in-his-garage-that-made-pc’s-accesible-to-all-with-dos-that-ripped-off-cp/m-anyway to come up with a ‘generic’ linux distro that ‘just works’ out of the box with all the extra things that people need: i.e the whole dvd/mp3/game/hardware support thing just sorted out and working

    very much like linus came up with a working kernel for an open/free version of unix while hurd was still ‘under development’ and from there the whole linux/free-unix ecosystem evolved into what we have today

    anyways, one can always entertain high hopes, can’t one?

    and in an infinite universe, with infinite possibilities…

  152. FreeSoftNews » Blog Archive » Ubuntu Weekly News: Issue #32 Says:

    […] Ed Moltzen blogs about Mark Shuttleworth’s [ post], which discusses issues and solutions arising from widespread interest of pre-installed Linux in Dell’s [ IdeaStorm]. Read the post: […]

  153. FreeSoftNews » Blog Archive » Ubuntu Weekly News: Issue #32 Says:

    […] Ed Moltzen blogs about Mark Shuttleworth’s [ post], which discusses issues and solutions arising from widespread interest of pre-installed Linux in Dell’s [ IdeaStorm]. Read the post: […]

  154. Dennis Mitchel Says:

    It’s very nice to see that work is being done to get Linux more mainstream but what will we be doing with these machines. I have the limited perception out of the eyes of a gamer. When I can run games natively on Linux, I will move over. The work to get Linux from Hobby to professional is to get applications to work, hassle free and natively on Linux.

    From my point, when I mean games I mean games like Oblivion, Supreme Commander. These are some of the more recent games and only available for Windows. If the Linux community cannot get software companies to publish Linux copies of their software (with the necessary support and patching) why would one step over?

    Make no mistake, even if my comment seems to make me a Windows follower, I am not. I would rather take the step to Linux.

  155. Dell and Linux, Chocolate or Vanilla? « Tuxicity’s source Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth: “Worse, we are not “Linux” users, we are users who want version 6.06.1 of Ubuntu, or 10.2 of SuSE, or Fedora 6. We want a specific distro, and in many cases also a specific VERSION of that distro.” […]

  156. Il blog di Guido Arata: diffusione-del-sapere-informatico: news-exploit-bug-sicurezza-informatica-programmazione Says:

    […] Inoltre, sempre sul suo blog, si è espresso riguardo il discorso di avere Linux preinstallato sui PC. Per i non anglofoni, sul Blog Ubuntista è presente una traduzione del suo post. […]

  157. Gostak Says:

    You need to provide a little more than a CD and drivers that should work. The reason is as follows. The manufacturer of the computer is in the unique position of deciding what hardware is in the box off the shelf. Making that decision, the vendor can know without question if an open source driver exists for the hardware. Further, the vendor should provide a package that can make use of the hardware on the machine. It does not make sense to sell a machine with a particular piece of hardware if the software to run on the machine can not use that hardware. Either provide the compatible driver or use different hardware. If you can’t get a driver for a requested piece of hardware, then you simply say that combination is not available. I’d hate to say how many times I’ve attempted to load software on a computer that will not function with a newer machine, but if I go back to a machine with the old os, the software works just great!

  158. Bruno DUVAL Says:

    I was interested in trying Linux. I bought a magazine with Mandriva. But to get the WIFI working I had to paid and I wanted to try it first. I didn’t like it.
    Then I have searched the Internet for advice and I came across Ubuntu as a hot recommendation.
    I have installed UBUNTU a few weeks ago on a 5 years old computer and I am in love with the system. I have also downloaded Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu and a gamer edition, and I like very much the fact that you can offer tailor made distribution to fit specific needs.
    I love UBUNTU so much that looking for a new start ( I have been a marketing manager for medical devices for the last 19 years and I have had enough) I am seriously considering a similar project as SYSTEM 76 for the french market with a small range of products to start with.
    Offering training on one hand (people wouldn’t have to pay for the system but for a training to try it and get used to it) and custom made distribution and set up for a “ready to use PC” may help to get UBUNTU better known.

    In any case it really deserves it.
    (and please excuse my English)

  159. Jos Plompen Says:

    Hi Mark,
    Thnx for this clear and educating comment.
    I think it is time for some out-of-the-box thinking (no pun intented).
    Actually, it is time that you and Richard Branson get together.
    Why Branson? Well, he is the one business man in this world that has the habit and proven track record to turn business models upside down. He loves to take on the “powers that are”. He fought the record labels, he fought BA, he fought Pepsi and Coca and so forth. And…he succeeded!
    Make him a proposition to build Virgin Ubuntu computers that will compete with Microsoft and Apple and win this battles. I think he must be sensitive for the fact that all this comes from what computer users actually want, he loves the rebels.
    You might have to take a hurdle though. Branson is also a lover of space travel, except… he choose Ballmer as his “co-pilot”. 😉 Well, all men are entitled to make one mistake in their life.
    So, go for it. And of course, I am would be more than willing to stand by you on this.

    BTW, thank you for Ubuntu

  160. Pre-installed Linux « Says:

    […] Pre-installed Linux Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth on pre-installing Linux. […]

  161. Glo Says:

    Your article makes good points. Many of the comments are well reasoned and informative, especially those about “co-marketing”, kickbacks (commissions) for the test drive add ons. These comments, if true, degrade your argument on “razor thin margins”.

    Now, that said, what do I want from the major retailers?

    I want a machine (laptop in my case) that is guaranteed not to have any hardware in it for which I cannot get an open source driver. Period. Full stop. Now, that’s just me: a reasonably experienced techie with more than a few years experience dealing with Linux.

    What does the market need that might be palatable to the major makers of PC computers? Given the number of distributions and combinations of hardware, add ons and the like, maybe the answer is just as I said above. Keep the hardware open so that getting it to work is not a nightmare or impossible.

    Better still is that one or more vendors tell the Linux packagers, such as Ubuntu, exactly what components are going into their retail offerings so that some advance planning (Ha!) can be done by the packagers. Now, does this put the other packagers at a small disadvantage? Maybe. Maybe not.

    Know to run Ubuntu 6.10 outta the box would be nice to know for a Toshiba P105-S61xx. Even if I had to pay the Microsoft tax.

    BTW isn’t that tie-in-sales sh*t against the terms of that anti trust settlement?

  162. Ubuntu preloaded - business factors « Feeding the Penguins Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth wrote in Pre-installing Linux, First, margins on PC’s are razor-thin. […]

  163. Ubuntu | Morgan Collett: Ubuntu preloaded - business factors Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth wrote in Pre-installing Linux, First, margins on PC’s are razor-thin. […]

  164. Robert Vogel Says:

    Consumers should be more assertive in the products that they demand. If we are to get robust appliances that are interoperable, open to enhancement, auditable, secure, and of verifiable high quality here’s what is necessary:

  165. dave Says:

    Wow, I’m late to the discussion…..with so many comments I’m not sure if anyone has offered the followng sentiment, but here goes…

    Personally, I’d be pretty happy if Dell were to offer ANY distro preinstalled. This is because I already rip the OS out and install my preferred distro. Except, as it stands, I need to worry about the hardware being incompatible with Linux. Dell needn’t care whether or not the Linux kernel supports the wireless chipset, or if a laptop reliably suspends. Windows is the only supported OS.

    Even if Dell were to only support RH or SLED, I’d reap the benefits even if I’m running Ubuntu. The kernel is the important bit.

    You make some solid, important points, but I think you’re slightly off here. I would prefer a real working machine, not a CD in a box with a hearty “Good luck!”. We woudn’t be much better off in your scenario. But again, if the hardware works with Dell’s implementation of Fedora (or what have you), it will work with whichever distro ultimately ends up being installed.

  166. The Liberator Reloaded Says:

    […] ADDENDUM: via Mark Shuttleworth, I find out that the Dell systems will have a choice of Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSUSE.  I honestly didn’t know that when I made my predictions (believe that if you will). […]

  167. The Liberator Reloaded Says:

    […] ADDENDUM: via Mark Shuttleworth, I find out that the Dell systems will have a choice of Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSUSE. I honestly didn’t know that when I made my predictions (believe that if you will). […]

  168. Dell Breaks the Mold at Says:

    […] The executive team at Dell has obviously realized this because of the potentially risky steps they’ve been taking. Microsoft can’t be happy that Dell won’t be exclusively Windows anymore. Also, as Mark Shuttleworth pointed out, it could potentially cost a lot of money to provide support another OS. These hesitations have both been taken care of. Dell doesn’t care as much about Microsoft anymore because the customers don’t care about Microsoft as much anymore. Also, Dell’s given information about their support plan for Linux: they wont support it. […]

  169. Command Line Warriors » Blog Archive » Three types of Linux computer Says:

    […] Today, I read an article that Mark Shuttleworth recently wrote called Pre-installing Linux. He argues that there are two issues holding back supply of GNU/Linux desktops (from here on Linux=GNU/Linux). The first is that the economics of selling PCs is bound heavily up with Microsoft as the monopoly supplier, I agree with him here. […]

  170. Fadli Says:

    Always in my head, I did not expect Dell or any vendor to bring Linux along with their machine but I expect their delivered machine is hardware compatible with Linux. No more headache of installing appropriate drivers and applications. Make it plug and play with Linux too.

  171. Susan Says:


    “When large businesses buy new PCs, they often wipe the hard drives clean and
    install a fresh copy of Windows, along with the other software they want workers to have…”

  172. How people get moved by the word "Proprietary" « Says:

    […] Here is a nice post of Mark Shuttleworth explaining some of the factors why its so difficult to buy a Pre-installed Linux PC […]

  173. Leonardo Fontenelle » Blog Archive » Dell anuncia que venderá computadores com Ubuntu Says:

    […] Muitos dizem que o mercado para Linux é pequeno, mas quando a Dell perguntou aos seus clientes o que eles queriam, a demanda por Linux foi “esmagadora”, para citar o site da empresa. Michael Dell experimentou o Ubuntu com Firefox, e Evolution, e o resto é história. […]

  174. A dorfunteca » Unindo os puntos entre Dell e Canonical Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth é o fundador de Canonical e pese a que só se atopou unha vez con Michael Dell nun evento de Microsoft (sic), ten as ideas bastante claras sobre as posibles relacións que puidera ter co fabricante de ordenadores. […]

  175. Caida Cabello Says:

    All we have to wait now is to see the final release of Beryl. Regular people is asking for more “user friendly” interfaces/Os. Let’s see what happens with it!

  176. TBdO » Brendan » Revelation » Blog Archive » Here Be Dragons Says:

    […] sure she wouldn’t feel comfortable installing Windows herself, either, which illustrates why pre-installed Linux is such an important issue. At present, being able to use Linux has as a tacit prerequisite of […]

  177. 三洋伺服 Says:

    Here is a nice post of Mark Shuttleworth explaining some of the factors why its so difficult to buy a Pre-installed Linux PC

  178. maccabi Says:

    Hi mark,
    After reading your blog & most of the responses I hope i can add a bit of useful input into the discussion.
    I recently installed Ubuntu – dual boot XP – in order get the taste of Linux.
    I did it as a response to the ridiculous behavior of HP to my asking to get their new notebook with XP instead of Vista, as my research revealed that Vista is too heavy on the basic notebook configuration.
    My asking was replied with a big NO. from their P.O.V I have to use Vista.
    NO WAY.
    At this point I have to give credit where it’s due, and admit that Microsoft did standardize the PC interface so now every user can operate the thing quite intuitively. you can argue that it’s not always for the better, and I can add that they made some very heavy money in the process, but this is something any operating system must take into account.
    I will repeat in short what was written here – adding that I use PC from the DOS era, but still wants:
    An operating system with no fuss, in which I can first & foremost connect to the net via WIFI, display my web pages with all the standard plug-ins, movie, sound, flash ecs. listen to any format of sound. watch any format of movie. display & edit my picture and video. have Open Office. connect to Palm, and if you’re nice Pocket PC. burn Cd’s & DVDs
    And I AM WILLING TO PAY FOR IT as long as the distributor is capable of giving me that with a bit of support, and probably, so are many more who are fed up with Microsoft greedy fingers.
    Now to my ideas – some where suggested by other as well.
    Canonical should assemble a line of both notebook & media computer based on Ubuntu.
    Buy the components form manufactures that have the right drivers for the OS. I’ve heard of Dell & Lenovo selling Ubuntu ready notebooks. they must be able to do all that I mentioned above, as well as Asus Eee which is my favorite.
    Connecting to the net and providing some kind of a diagnostic tool to check the hardware so it installs any additional software to make the system work smoothly is also a must.
    The timing is right, the market is ripe, we are all waiting for the substitute.
    Liked the idea about Richard Branson.
    Good luck.

  179. Tomasz Gorski Says:

    Personally, I’d be pretty happy if Dell were to offer ANY distro preinstalled. This is because I already rip the OS out and install my preferred distro. Except, as it stands, I need to worry about the hardware being incompatible with Linux. Dell needn’t care whether or not the Linux kernel supports the wireless chipset, or if a laptop reliably suspends. Windows is the only supported OS

  180. Jose_X Says:


    Your can of corn example is off the mark. Percentages are what matter most. I buy loads of cans of food yearly but less than one PC during that time.

    Your estimates for what Dell makes on crapware might be too high.

    I think Dell fell from grace with Microsoft and Intel, but I could be wrong. If they did, it explains why they are taking the “risks” with Linux.

    Some more things to consider:

    With Linux, Dell is in the driver’s seat not Microsoft. Microsoft will have to pay to get their crippled trial versions of officeware, their browsers, etc, onto Dell PC’s. Meanwhile Dell will take the lead over slow OEMs as they bundle DeLinux with DeLoffice and anything else they want. Dell will gain significantly in their balance of trade with Microsoft. And Dell will have deals with other vendors opened up to them that in the past Microsoft would frown upon. Also, over time, there will be plenty of crapware for Linux and other more interesting bundling. With improved technology, Dell might even have a system where they can afford to sell real estate space on the PC in a local fashion to tap into small businesses that only want limited coverage.

    I think Dell is using the Linux faithful to fund their investments in Linux to get it to a level where they feel comfortable selling it to ma and pa. Dell is a newbie of sorts and they have a lot of tweaking to do and infrastructure to set up. By getting a jump on everyone else, they get the most beta testers plus the extra pocket change.

    To the many others that want a bare PC:

    Why does Dell care about installing Linux instead of just a certificate? Read the above. Dell has tremendous opportunities by seizing more control over the OS. How can they tap into most of the revenue streams with a bare PC? How can they provide their exclusive value services without an OS? Please.

  181. Top Linux News » Shuttleworth on pre-installing Linux Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]

  182. wren Says:

    Hi Mark,

    few days ago I tried Innotek’s VirtualBox fantastic Seamless Windowing Mode. I’m still busy to get it running on my Ubuntu machine.
    But take a look at following use case:

    Berta needs new Computer. She goes to the local computer dealer and checks what is available on the (consumer) market. Whats this? Why this Computer is 50 EUR cheaper than the same one nearby? There is a endless presentation movie running on the Computer.

    Ad text

    An Tux mascott tells:

    Hi, how are are? My name is Tux. This machine is running Ubuntu Linux. You have ever heard about? No? It’s the basic software translating one & zero numbers to the computer. So, i.e. you are moving the mouse Ubuntu Linux is translating this to zero & one numbers. Sounds difficult, isn’t it? No worries! Ubuntu is doing this hidden for you perfectly. You don’t have to operate the light switches yourself. Concentrate on what you really want: surfing on the Internet, writing office documents, online gaming and more. You know what I’m talking about. Wanna using your good old applications on your new computer machine? No, problem. We can arrange this for you. You only need this old operating system CD-ROM you got delivered with your old computer. Just take a look.

    If you start up the computer you are in front of you will see following:

    [captured first time Ubuntu boot up]

    [Ubuntu Welcome screen]

    [Ubuntu first time user dialog. The (Innotek setup wizard pops up)]

    Welcome on board. If you wanna use the applications from your old computer please insert the installation CD-ROM you got delivered with your old computer and press “Next” “Abort”.

    [User inserts the CD-ROM]

    [Innotek setup wizard: Thank you. I regognized a Microsoft Windows 98 setup installation media. Now, Ubuntu will create a such called virtual machine using the Innotek VirtualBox seamless windowing mode. By the end you will be capable to start your OLD applications on your NEW computer. Just take a look how you can work with this (-> short Innotek VirtualBox seamless windowing mode presentation with a Internet browser, Office app and so on)]


    Canonical takes no responsibility for the proper working of the Microsoft Windows 98 setup and the application you will install into this Virtual Machine.

    [ ] I don’t accept. This will abort the virtual machines setup. You can repeat this setup later again using application > virtual machine > Innotek Virtual Box set up

    [X] I accept. You will find your migrated application using the application > migrated systems > MS Windows 98

    Ubuntu Linux – You don’t have to operate the switches yourself!

    The Virtual Machine will be set up and the Gnome desktop launches.

    The end.



  183. Mark Shuttleworth tackles Linux on commodity PCs | Cyde Weys Musings Says:

    […] Shuttleworth, the financier behind Ubuntu (thanks Mark!) tackles the problem of Linux in a recent blog post. He points out that profit margins are very low on these products, and that co-marketing funds from […]

  184. More on the Linux/Dell Thing « Crooked Spoke Says:

    […] via Mark Shuttleworth, I find out that the Dell systems will have a choice of Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSUSE. I honestly […]

  185. AndyB » Pre-installing Linux Says:

    […] new Dell IdeaStorm site: Pre-installing Linux on retail machines. Today Mark Shuttleworth wrote an article on the difficulties/reasons Dell, and other resellers, may not want to Pre-install Linux. I feel a […]