Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Linux Ubuntu on Dell

Dell is going to offer some hardware that comes with Ubuntu Feisty (7.04) pre-installed. These are exciting prospects for the propagation of Linux into mainstream markets that are non-geek. Does this mean that through the evaluation of Dell, Linux is finally considered mainstream-compatible?

Well, I know for one that Dell runs a lot of Windows software, not just offering it with their hardware, but they also run this internally. So they are not particularly interested in software as a technology (or as religion). We need to consider this move from Dell also from the perspective of support.

Windows, as the OS only and a couple of "productive" applications is a basic platform. Let's see the following formula:

known hardware + known software == x probable support calls

However, when we start installing "3rd party" software into this mix, suddenly the support calls can theoretically grow significantly larger. Not linear, but supposedly also exponential, especially when a commonly used piece of software happens to be incompatible with their hardware.

Ubuntu, as we know, has a repository with a very large amount of software on it that should satisfy most people's needs. I cannot truly remember the last time I downloaded an RPM or DEB from the Internet and installed it outside any repository.

This is a different kind of support that they have probably investigated, the support of testing the known software in the repository on their known hardware. If this provides all software tools that people need and it all works, then this is a fantastic service and may bring costs down significantly on the customer support front. Plus... since more than Dell customers use the software as well, for Dell support to resolve issues, they are no longer alone. They can count on the large number of forums, blogs and the community to help people out.

The question is thus... will Dell treat the community well? If they manage to become a responsible member of the community and contribute their productivty back, they gain much more than what they originally invested, as the momentum of the Ubuntu community should definitely increase. Openness in communication, testing of software on many different machines with many different kinds of users, hardware that works, software that works... Will this generate happy customers? Is this the future of computing? If mainstream picks up, does this mean that the market will *demand* Linux on their computers for community support (no fee!) and pre-tested distributions and hardware/software packages?

Some people are already discussing that Dell might start their own Ubuntu repositories and become full mirrors. If the cost of running those mirrors and hardware/software compatibility testing is lower than running a whole array of customer support reps, then this would actually lower the opex for Dell, which means more profit! exciting indeed...

No comments: