Dell and Linux on the Desktop

An interesting interview with Michael Dell about the Dell “Linux desktop strategy”. The fact that he mentions Distrowatch by name means he clearly is following what is going on in the Linux world, even if only at a high level. He mentions the failed attempt Dell made back in 2000-2001 to sell Linux on the desktop. That was a long time ago though, and both Linux and the market have changed a ton since then. While he makes some valid points, his main grip seems to be the shear number of Linux distributions available. While I agree that we need to consolidate in some areas if we want mass market acceptance (search for my past comments on whether we want to make these technically poor decisions for the sole sake of gaining acceptance or not), the reality is that a vast majority of distribution are very niche. Picking say two distributions (which is less than the number of Windows versions they support) would allow you to serve a vast majority of the client base you are targeting. The “Linux Community” isn't the target base here, don't forget – the Dell potential customer is. Much of the Linux community would never buy a Dell anyway. Beyond just that, ensuring Dell ran on those two distributions would ensure that the Linux kernel could support Dell hardware, giving those who wanted to run other distributions the choice. It would also compel hardware manufacturers to either offer open drivers or at least release specs for others to do so. My guess here is that Dell wants to try to make the Linux community happy while they dip their toes back in, while also not making Microsoft feel threatened. On that note, I find it hilarious that he closes with “Microsoft has not talked to us about Linux. If they did, I wouldn't care. It's none of their business”. Now, I find it nearly impossible that Linux has not come up in the price negotiations that Dell and Microsoft obviously have for Windows, but the fact that he publicly said something like this shows you how much things have changed. Just a few short years ago he'd not dared talk such blasphemy in public. We're continuing to make strides…slowly but surely.
–jeremy
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