A free software milestone

Monday, May 7th, 2007

I’ve been on the road solidly for the past 10 days but itching to write about Dell’s announcement of pre-installed Linux for consumers.

This is a significant milestone, not just for Ubuntu but for every flavour of Linux and the free software community as a whole. While there are already a number of excellent companies like System76 offering Linux pre-installed, Dell represents “the industry”, and it’s very important for all of us that the industry sees a future for Linux on the desktop.

Device compatibility is the top issue people raise as a blocker of broad Linux adoption. Many hardware manufacturers don’t yet provide zero-day Linux drivers for their components, because of the perceived lack of market demand for those drivers. The Dell announcement is already changing that. Those manufacturers who are Linux-aware will have a significant advantage selling their components to global PC vendors who are shipping Linux, because those PC vendors can offer the same components across both Linux and Windows PC’s. That commonality reduces cost, and cost is everything in the volume PC market.

I believe that the free software approach is a better device driver development model for component and peripheral manufacturers, and that once they have learned how to work with the Linux community they will quickly ensure that their devices work with Linux as soon as, or before, they work with proprietary platforms. It will take some time to help those vendors understand the full process of working in a collaborative forum with the upstream kernel community, to ensure the widest possible benefit from their efforts. I’ve no doubt that vendors who start out thinking in proprietary terms will, over time, shift towards providing free drivers in partnership with the Linux community. I would credit companies like Intel for their leadership in that regard, it’s great to be able to show how their free drivers make it possible to reach the widest possible audience with their hardware.

The most important thing for all of us is the commercial success of Dell’s offering. A sustainable business in pre-installed Linux in Western markets will give credibility to the Linux desktop as well as providing an opportunity to build relationships with the rest of the consumer PC ecosystem. We don’t have to fix Bug #1 in order to make Linux a top-tier target for hardware vendors – we just need to show that there’s an economic incentive for them to engage with our community.

45 Responses to “A free software milestone”

  1. Brady Merriweather Says:

    Also still waiting on contact myself on the basic affiliate planb myself Mark. No word in over 3 months. 🙁

  2. Jonathan Carter Says:

    I’ve seen a rise in people wanting to buy Dell Ubuntu laptops all over. It’s certainly great news for consumers everywhere! I’m going to join in and also buy a Dell Ubuntu laptop as soon as it’s available in South Africa!

    Thank you for all your hard work to make this possible!

  3. Lasse Havelund Says:

    I’ve always liked Dell and their computers (I have a Latitude C300 from ’01 running Feisty), and this has boosted that even more. I might just get a Dell to support the cause (even though my Core 2 Duo machine is good enough :/)

  4. kNo' Says:

    A question that goes round and round my head since that day: will these machines be available only in the US? in Europe? worldwide?

  5. dragonish Says:

    I have bought two $599 laptops in the last two years.
    Wiped off the “w” and installed Ubuntu, no sweat.

    Would buy a Dell Ubuntu? No doubt!

    Happiest customer evah…

  6. Ian Says:

    I don’t really need a computer, since I build my own, but I plan to buy a Dell Ubuntu machine simply to show my support for Dell/Canonical for their awesome work and for Ubuntu – the best distro on the planet.

  7. lyceum Says:

    As excited as I am to see this, I do have my worries. I see Linspire at K-Mart/Wall-Mart and even Microcenter. They have signs to let the customers know they are not Windows. I do not worry too much about this with Ubuntu, as it is brown and looks NOTHING like Windows. How well will Dell advertise? Will they try to sell these PCs, or is this just a marketing ploy to get people talking about Dell. I refurbish Dell PC’s all the time. They are good computers that run well with Ubuntu. I look forward to buying a Dell laptop with Ubuntu pre-installed. But I am already a fan. My real question is will this really raise FOSS awareness? I do have to say though that when I talk to people, telling them that Dell is taking Ubuntu and Linux/FOSS seriously really helps in getting them to take these things seriously. Thank you Mark for getting the people together and getting the ball rolling. I know we are not there yet, but Ubuntu would not be Dell’s first pick if you would not have started the project.

  8. Free Penguin Says:

    Remember that for Europe this Dell’s Linux will arrive not so early than America.
    Therefore I think if one of the most bigger Computers Company offer the Free Software to users is a real good thing for the whole other GNU/Linux users.

    Free Penguin

  9. Dick Van Kirk Says:

    May 7
    I love your products
    I tell hundreds of high school kids about it every year in the US
    Please do something so that Skype has the hardware and software so Ubuntu can have a
    great webcam experience with Skype
    Thank you for your time and energy
    Dick Van Kirk
    Sunnyside High School
    Grandview WA 98930 USA

  10. Safaribans Says:

    I would love for more companies to jump on free drivers.

    When I started using Warty I was so pleased since things like plug and play worked with gnome and project utopia and all that stuff…
    I’m sure you remember complaints of the text based installer, I have to use terminal to upgrade from one release to the next, and things like my cd drive doesn’t eject when I push the button. These “issues” are long gone.
    Ubuntu and GNU/Linux in general has come a very very long way these past 2 years.
    So what complaints still remain?
    Something 3D related or wireless. These are stereotypical, and people (some I’m guessing that have never tried Linux period) point out how it’s a pain. So if these start working out of the box without people having to check first if their hardware is supported… Not to mention pre installation… Sounds like a winner.

    I guess the last major complaint will be why can’t I play MP3’s (but that’s essentially fixed now too with feisty) and I need xyz window app.

    Will things get boring when WINE reaches something like a 1.0 and patents on mp3 expire?

    They will have to learn to do what I do with a perfect Ubuntu setup. Spend time browsing Add/Remove. 🙂

    Anyway, quite a rant on my part. I’ll add the other plus of free drivers besides supporting more architectures than x86 (ports etc) is that if the company doesn’t care about the hardware anymore those drivers won’t disappear from the kernel.

  11. Subin Says:

    Thank you, Mark! I Know many people will say many things about DELL and ubuntu but all I want to do is thank you personally for your continuous support to the Linux community. Among a lot of other great people who have done quite a lot for Linux, you have undoubtedly been one of the most inspirational -Once again THANK You! :=)

  12. Derek Freudenthal Says:

    I have a fairly new laptop as of current running your newest Ubuntu. Once its ran its use, I am thrilled beyond what I can express in writing that there will be a place for me to go to buy it preinstalled.

    Somebody slap me, I must be dreaming.

  13. stelt Says:

    I guess i need to add a link to dell.com at http://freedomdrive.org

  14. Joe Says:

    While I won’t go out and buy a PC just to support Linux, I do want to ensure that future products DO support Linux out of the box. Notebooks are notoriously bad in this situation. Many notebook parts are proprietary and specialized. Being able to buy a notebook computer and knowing that I won’t have trouble getting the suspend feature or sound to work is big, and it WILL help determine what my next purchase will be.

    Whether or not that convinces people other then the Linux userbase to buy these things is another story but the exposure can’t be bad.

  15. Declan Says:

    Dell has shown faith in Linux and the strength of its community. In return, it is also in all our interests that the Linux community returns the favour and supports Dell and it’s products. The comments left by readers above are encouraging and hopefully we can show Dell and other hardware manufactures that supporting Linux opens up an important market for them.

  16. jonathan riley Says:

    I hope the dell/ubuntu computer will be released in england sooner rather than later. I will buy one as soon as i can get my hands on one.

  17. Dhonn Says:

    I hope they release a machine that is pretty high end. When I look to get a new computer I expect I can get a pretty high end machine. Just as I can with a windows.

  18. Charlie Says:

    I think this is a great step forward a General Linux adoption, linux is no more for geeks or computer guys, I have been a full time linux user since 2004 and clearly Ubuntu is making it Happens. my congratulations to the Ubuntu and Canonical teams for this great acomplishment.

    Linux: the road for a better computing experience

  19. James Says:

    “Many hardware manufacturers don’t yet provide zero-day Linux drivers for their components”

    Spot on! as can be seen with the lack of a decent install-and-works Broadcom wireless driver for Linux. As Dell utilise Broadcom chipsets (at least they do with my Dell) will this mean Dell releasing a Linux Broadcom driver (no more firmware cutting) ? I hope so.

  20. James Says:

    After getting frustrated with forced Vista upgrades (and the invisible added cost) with brand PCs, I was looking around to build my own PC for the first time. Maybe this will change that and I will get a Dell instead. I have been very pleased with the latest release of Ubuntu. All my hardware just worked so far (installed less than a week ago at home).

  21. How the Ubuntu/Dell deal will impact the market « David’s Linux Blog Says:

    […] How the Ubuntu/Dell deal will impact the market Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has an excellent blog entry describing the way the Ubuntu/Dell deal will impact driver development, Dell’s business, and Linux in general. Most notable is his assertion that the “free software approach is a better device driver development model” than the closed-source model.  I wholehartedly agree with this, because once a driver is mainlined in the kernel, the kernel devs maintain the driver interface to the kernel.  The only work left for the hardware vendor is supporting their hardware. […]

  22. Ben Aceler Says:

    It’s good about hardware, and also Linus said, that he will putdrivers into userspace, that will simplify drivers code maintaining.

    I have also a thought about games in linux. The code in the games took only few percent of the developer resources – near 2-5%, most of them are for artwork like levels, models, sound and so on. That’s mean (if we think that linux code costs the same that the windows code, and linux customers have the same activity) that the linux games will become profitable, when linux market share will be more than code resourses share of the game. Today we have near 4% of linux market share, and it means, that the linux games come soon.

  23. Onno Says:

    Maybe you could make a page in Ubuntu site:


  24. djRob Says:

    I would like to comment on your interview about Dell offering Ubuntu, posted on Dell’s website. Why were you so turned down? I saw your past appearances (eg. DebConf) and you looked and behaved much better at those appearances.
    This isn’t good. Average computer users (and this will be your target market) need a show – look at Steve Jobs, he can sell average OS convincing people that OS X is the best OS on the planet and people believe him.

    Anyway congrats on a deal. I’ve just ordered Dell laptop and hope that Kubuntu will work well on it.

    Mark Shuttleworth says:

    Sorry about that, I was a bit of a jetlag zombie when we did the recording. C’est la vie.

  25. cantormath Says:

    Now that we are getting what we want, slowly, I think people need to start buying linux laptops(ie:dell and system76) as well.

  26. underbellies Says:

    The plot thickens


  27. J Says:

    I like this one better, it’s more ominous 😉 http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/11921/1090/

  28. bradfriesen.com » Mark Shuttleworth on Dell’s announcement of pre-installed Linux for consumers Says:

    […] “This is a significant milestone, not just for Ubuntu but for every flavour of Linux and the free software community as a whole. While there are already a number of excellent companies like System76 offering Linux pre-installed, Dell represents “the industry”, and it’s very important for all of us that the industry sees a future for Linux on desktop.”read more | digg story […]

  29. Stucky Says:

    Lintel anyone? Nicely played. Can’t wait to see this.


  30. jryan Says:

    Hey Mark

    Keep up the good work. I’m a late bloomer IT Pro geek. I switched careers three years ago out of a hunger for something I could really pursue and it not get old. Well after being a certified Microsoft pro for three years a few months ago I caught the Linux bug and haven’t looked back. I see Ubuntu being the Linux that I grow with professionaly and personally. I have actually considered just today taking all the old PCs I throw in dumpsters on a daily basis, (because Windows have chewed them up and spit them out) installing Ubuntu and donating them to the city schools here in Baltimore. I know most of the schools in th city probably share a Windows Dell among 20 or 30 students.

    Not to mention this may work out as a pretty good business for me and my family to operate as well.

    It amazes me how much money can be freed up to pay for valuable support and inovation when Uncle Bill isn’t getting filthy filthy rich off of licensing. As a Microsoft Admin and PC Tech Bill hasn’t left much on the table for anyone else. I was more convinced of this after hearing the Microsoft selling points against Linux being “Microsoft pros are a dime a dozen and work for less money” (are forced to work for less money because Bill Gates has it all in his bank none laft for me).

    I may be selling it a little extreme and I know many techs have a successfull Microsoft career but the price of M$ software definately hasn’t made it easy.

    Again Mark Thanks you are an inspiration!

  31. Stephen Says:

    Unfortunately Dell is a public company that has a vicious mistress named Wall Street that it must satisfy every quarter. Care should be taken in managing the relationship with them. Even IBM’s support of Linux is governed by the same mistress (she’s rather promiscuous) – watch how IBM moves its customers over to AIX from Linux (see http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,1000000121,39286886,00.htm). Indeed, IBM is still pushing its mainframes and now feels that the client/server era is over. But, going back to the individual desktop user’s concerns, great attention must be given to supporting common Microsoft file formats (and letting people know!) if it is to be a serious desktop alternative. Think of a pc as a communication device. It simply can’t afford to not be able to send and receive certain popular messages. You can’t have people knocking on the door of their neighbour’s house at night since they received an Excel spreadsheet that they can’t open. Imagine a cell phone that had the restriction of not being able to send or receive calls from certain numbers. Sure, you can get by. But what if one lucky day you meet some pretty lady who gets your number…and her number happens to be on the restricted list. Or you meet a job recruiter at a party who tells you to send your resume asap for a hot job they’re about to post. See, it’s like insurance. But, as a geek and one who admires your efforts, by all means keep on old boy!

  32. Reflection Design v7 » Blog Archive » Me thinks me see updates in the horizon Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth, blogs about the recent announcement on Dell offering Ubuntu as an alternative on their computers. Read what he has to say here:  A free software milestone […]

  33. DC@DR Says:

    Congrats, Ubuntu, this is definitely a solid step ahead towards fixing the Linux community’s Bug No.1. Keep up the good work, cheers 🙂

  34. Stefan Vogt Says:

    Dell is a major company with remarkable sales world-wide, as well in both sectors: home-entertainement and business. This is great news for all members and contributers of the open-source movement. No doubt about it.

  35. Motorcycle Guy Says:

    I think it’s awesome dell is offering support. I hope some day soon drivers will be available the day a part ships.

  36. John Wells Says:

    Congratulations Mark — this is a major step forward and must be applauded. I hope other vendors follow suit and hardware compatibility improves.

    What’s next? Here’s an idea: Linux compatibility logos. A little penguin on boxes of hardware products or peripherals that signifies that an open source driver is in the kernel. MacOS has a Mac logo, Windows has their own.

    I can see how such a scheme could cover its own costs by charging minor administration fees — but it will require a fair amount of resources to institute. It is a difficult task that will require a bit of ‘weight’ behind it to get it off the ground. It appears that Canonical and Ubuntu – with the support of Dell – have that weight. I’d love to see such a scheme take off. Once it gained traction, it would benefit the community in more ways than one…

  37. Jabberwocky Says:

    Do you see this:

    “What’s fair is fair,” Ballmer told Fortune.
    “We live in a world where we honor, and support the honoring of, intellectual property.”


    That’s incredibly rich given Microsoft’s legacy of trampling over other people’s IP
    as & when they please…
    Since when was Microsoft a “fair & honorable” company ?
    Or do they assume that moniker only when it suits them…? 😉

    Hm they must be worried about the OS threat..
    to start asserting patents in this way.

  38. Jabberwocky Says:

    I suppose if you read the ITwire links above… it would seem MS is up to its normal nefarious tricks…
    feeding uBuntu a poison chalice via Dell..

    But you just never know.

    Who would have predicted that Google would outstrip MS in market value, when they were a start-up in the late 90’s ?
    Or the whole apple music monopoly via i-pod & i-tunes ?
    Or that Thawte would be challenge enough to Verisign for them to buy it…
    OpenSource might be more of a David
    to Microsoft’s Goliath
    than many realise at this juncture…

    Redmond has been wrong & almost wrong before..
    (they almost let Netscape get a hold on the Explorer market…
    They should’ve owned the Search engine market – but Google does etc
    They’re not getting into the latest technologies either…

    If you consider MS’s position:
    1.Many of the great innovative minds who built MS to what it is, have cashed in their share options & are now happily retired from operational involvement..
    2.MS now have an established position to defend…without the strategic intellectual engines they had before.
    3.Their market proposition is becoming increasingly commoditised…
    Previously they sat in the star quadrant : the held perceived intrinsic value-add + a volume “corporate” market to farm…
    The market would palate their extortionate pricing..

    But now they’re being pushed into the commoditised market (by alternatives such as OS, Linux etc) :
    their intrinsic value add is being increasingly questioned…
    & their volume corporate market is balking at their high margins on licensing..

    Inevitably, they’ll slip up again & not respond appropriately to market forces.
    Options like uBuntu must be ready for when they do…

  39. Jabberwocky Says:

    Bit more on the MS vs OS infringement of patent thing:


    If they want to assert that patents are being infringed – why don’t they just list which patents are being infringed…?
    I mean, what do they have to hide? Why do they have to use these tactics..?

    Hm just like Goliath. Using size, muscle & scare tactics.
    It’ll be their nemesis, if they don’t heed the warnings.

    Why don’t the adopt a different approach…??
    Try some REAL innovation… to take them to the next level.
    Own The Game ….by redefining it…
    Now that’d be something to watch ;-}

    (p.s. in the 90’s when Netscape was a real threat to fledgling IE…
    Paul Maritz… one of Bill’s inner-20 circle – Microsoft’s VP of strategy at the time…
    maths & strat genius, ex-Michaelhouse lad…
    had the bizarre notion of giving away IE for free.
    Blow me down.
    It worked…It made Netscape a non-player & IE became pervasive….

    MS need that kind of thinking to pull them out the mire
    they’re getting themselves into with bullying tactics..
    Redefine their revenue streams & how they realise value for their clients & charge for it…
    They’re stuck in 90’s license fee thinking…but that’s Ballmer for you.

  40. Jabberwocky Says:

    anyway – the REAL threat to MS isn’t Open Source…Or Ubuntu or Redhat…
    or protecting profit margins..
    it’s the new wave technology companies… Google, Apple, Gapple ;-? and others tbc…
    who’ll rip the red carpets from under their feet…

    Ergo: any anti-OS patent lawsuits are actually frivolous in the long term.

    If you’re as big as MS
    & you ain’t defining the game
    (i.e. just squabbling with the rest of the players..),
    …then you ain’t got game.

    ok. I’m monologuing here.best I shut up.

  41. Martin Peacock Says:

    Interesting that you note “Device compatibility is the top issue people raise”. Can I ask if that is a consensus from the ‘enthusiast’ community or from the ‘consumer PC ecosystem’? In my own (very limited, very crude) sampling of non-enthusiast friends I’m recommending Ubuntu to I ask what it is they want their computer to do – the answers, in various priorities are a. word processing / home office (done) b. browsing (done) c. Music collection (done) and d. Games. In all but one case, the answer to the recommendation has been “what – I can’t play my {insert name of game(s)}? I’ll live with Bug#1 (ok they said Windows).

    Having said that I don’t want to sound negative. It’s clearly great news & a clear endorsement for the value of FLOSS (another interesting piece of recent news ratifying FLOSS: http://www.cchit.org/certified/2006/WorldVistA+EHR.htm )

  42. Carl Says:

    Orangutans need our help. Would Mr. Shuttleworth be interested in helping this worthy cause?


    The total budget for the first year of the project was: AUD $80,426

  43. Hostgator » Blog Archive » Mark Shuttleworth: Free Software Milestone Says:

    […] This is a significant milestone, not just for Ubuntu but for every flavour of Linux and the free software community as a whole. While there are already a number of excellent companies like System76 offering Linux pre-installed, Dell represents “the industry”, and it’s very important for all of us that the industry sees a future for Linux on desktopread more | digg story […]

  44. Simunza S. Muyangana Says:

    Marvellous milestone indeed … I can’t wait for a hardware supplier to do the same here in Africa.

  45. Mighty Linuxz » Mark Shuttleworth: Free Software Milestone Says:

    […] read more | digg story […]