What’s Up Dell??

No Laptops In Sight

No Laptops In Sight

Ok most of you who know me will know that I’m usually an easy going guy, I like to get along with people and have a laugh, I don’t often get mad but a few people have brought something to my attention lately which has caused me to furrow my brow and considerably raised my blood pressure. It concerns the availability of Linux laptops from Dell UK, or should I say the lack thereof. Last year I bought an m1330n from Dell with Ubuntu pre-installed because I wanted to help support both consumer Linux and a company prepared to try out something new in standing up against Microsoft. Despite a few very minor gripes over the lack of a media remote in the Ubuntu model I’ve been nothing but happy with this machine, I’m typing on it right now. For almost a year it’s rarely left my side and it’s never let me down. Someone posted recently on the Linux Outlaws forums that they were looking for a new Linux laptop in the UK so I directed them to the Dell website. It turned out through the discussion that there are no longer any Linux laptops for sale on Dell’s UK website. There’s only 3 options, 1 desktop and 2 Ubuntu netbooks, the Mini 9 and Mini 12. They’re all nice machines but they used to also sell the m1330 and Studio 15 laptops with Ubuntu. So my question for Dell is this, what’s happened to them?!

I was even told by another forum user they were given short shrift on the phone to Dell UK when trying to order one of the XPS laptops with Ubuntu. Apparently the sales representative told them they no longer sold any XPS laptops with Ubuntu in the UK. When the customer persevered and asked if they could just order the hardware with no OS they were flatly told no. An American friend checked the US website for us and confirmed the Ubuntu options there still include 3 decent spec laptops: XPS M1530n, XPS M1330n and Studio 15n. This is on top of the Mini 9 netbook and a desktop pc. The netbooks are very nice and do their job well but I’m talking about proper desktop replacements here.

Hardly At Front Of The Shop

Hardly At Front Of The Shop

Now, I know some people will think this is just another ungrateful Linux hippie not understanding commerce but I know exactly how the world works and that Dell exists to make money. I appreciated their efforts in supplying a top of the range laptop like the m1330 with Linux and I still do. I’ve been very positive about Dell to everyone I know in the last year or so because of this and while I’ve been upset to see the Linux machines buried in some dusty corner of the website I’ve kept it to myself, well no more. Forgive my French but this is bullshit!! Pure and simple. If it’s just a matter of not enough sales in the UK to justify offering the machines any more then fine, I’d be disappointed but I’d accept it. I understand they’re not a charity but honestly how much extra work is it to install Ubuntu on a machine instead of Winblows Vista? Ok so there’s training of staff and so on, I can see that. We’re not even asking them to go that far, just shipping the machine with no OS and letting Linux users install their own software wouldn’t be any extra work at all as far as I can see. It’s not like we were getting any discount for the Windows license, the machines were the same price as their Vista counterparts and I never complained about this, I just put my money where my mouth was and bought one. A lot of people will say “just buy the Vista model if it’s the same price and wipe it” but for me this is missing the fundamental point. Why should I pay Microsoft for software I neither want nor need and subsidize their business? “Oh you failed again, never mind, here’s some more money for nothing”. You can decline the EULA and try to force Dell to give you a refund if you like but that’s far from easy. I want to support Linux and not be treated like a 2nd class citizen for doing so, my money is as good as anyone else’s, especially in a time of apparent economic crisis.

Ok I’ll take a breath now, I apologise for venting this in public but it had to go somewhere. It’s possible that they’ve removed the old offerings while they work on new ones which will appear soon and I sincerely hope this is the case. If it is I will hold my hands up and applogise to Dell 1000 times over but for now I simply want to know… what’s up??

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26 comments on “What’s Up Dell??
  1. Ed says:

    Well, stop with the Dell fanboying and support the more eurocentric computer shops that support Linux and offer machines with it. You want to support Linux, go to one of those little shops where they’ll charge you $300 more….but hey, at least you’ll be sticking it to Dell and MS! 😉

    • Dan says:

      @Ed Yes I agree and I take the point, I shopped around for a long time looking for someone who could sell me a decent laptop of the same spec in the UK with Linux. I couldn’t find anything that compared to the m1330 for design, power, features and all the rest. It wasn’t about price, I always try to support smaller companies where I can. The Linux Emporium had a few Thinkpads but none were close to the spec I wanted and I’m not a fan of the Thinkpad really. I also looked at Efficient PC as I know Dale and he’s a really nice guy. He had one laptop for offer and the hardware wasn’t fully supported by Linux, the card reader didn’t work and it just didn’t compare to the Dell for me. I would have bought a machine from System76 but they won’t ship outside the US or at least they didn’t at the time. I’d have to check if this is still that case. All in all options were thin in the UK 🙁 If you know of any other decent laptop sellers in the UK supporting Linux please let me know, I’d be more than happy to check them out 🙂

  2. Fab says:

    That is beside the point, Ed. Some people want to buy their hardware from a well known vendor for a fair price. Why should I pay more just to get a decent laptop with Linux? That’s nuts.

  3. Ed says:

    Let the wallet do the walking.

  4. stlouisubntu says:

    I think that Dell may have have a clause in their contract with M$ prohibiting them from selling any computer without any OS pre-installed. On their website in the US, their solution has been to offer FreeDOS preinstalled. That way they can meet the letter of their contract with M$, but still leave the options pretty much open for the end power user. Will they offer this FreeDOS option in the UK?

  5. Tilo says:

    Today I visited the german dell website because I found a link in the news that dell ships the inspiron mini 12 with ubuntu. And now I’m still concerned about dell’s selling policy. It’s the same shame on the online shop for germany http://dell.de/ubuntu. In the past I recommended two friends of mine to buy a dell inspiron with ubuntu pre-installed to support the idea of selling free software by a major hardware manufactor. I repeat to amplify your question “What’s up Dell ?”

  6. Dan says:

    @stlouisubntu I’ve had a look and can’t see FreeDOS listed anywhere on the Dell UK site now. They did used to do it I remember but I think before they started offering Ubuntu. MS probably rewrote the agreement to exclude FreeDOS as well knowing them. Dell will ship machines with no OS but only if you know the right people it seems. My Linux Outlaws co-host Fab bought an m1330 with no OS in Germany at the same time I got mine with Ubuntu. He got the Windows hardware model with all the extras and money off for not buying Windows. I didn’t get either! He’s bought a lot of Dell stuff before and just emailed the sales guy he’d dealt with who sorted it out. So they are doing it in some cases which would seem to go against their agreement with MS. It’s an odd one

  7. Tuxedup says:

    EfficientPc sell desktops pre-loaded with Ubuntu, but sadly no notebooks, only netbooks.

    Also novatech sell desktops and laptops without operating systems (the list price does not include an OS, only Windows Vista is available for pre-install).

    The prices at Novatech seem pretty fair.

    • Dan says:

      @Tuxedup Yes I’ve used Novatech to buy desktop gear in the past with no OS, they’re pretty good. I buy components from them sometimes too. As I said earlier Efficient PC had one laptop at the time when I looked but it didn’t suit my needs. I checked them out again recently and noticed they’ve removed that now, just desktops and netbooks. I met Dale who runs the company at LugRadio Live in the summer and he’s a really nice guy, I wish him all the best and recommend the company to people if they want an eeePC or anything like that. They do great MythTV systems all ready to go with media remotes out of the box as well, just like buying a Tivo, take it out the box and use it. Great stuff 🙂

  8. Tuxedup says:

    I am considering purchasing one of the little shuttle systems they have on efficientpc. The price seems pretty competitive. It is nice having the option of no os pre-installed as well as Ubuntu. I do not use Ubuntu my self, so would be replacing it with Pardus Linux.

  9. Dan says:

    @Tuxedup Interesting, I like Pardus but it’s still largely an unknown distro. I particularly like how it does things it’s own way, a completely new package manager and so many other things. It’s not based on anything else which is rare in the Linux world these days. I reviewed it for Linux Planet last year, enjoy 🙂

  10. Sam Weston says:

    I bought an M1330n over the summer and absolutely love it. I don’t understand why they would go through the trouble of sorting out Linux compatibility and then just stop selling it! I also bought an Inspiron 1525 with Ubuntu for a retired couple who have never used a PC before and they love it…I’m with you…BS!

    • Dan says:

      @sam Yes it seems very odd to me too, most of the Dell machines run Linux really well. They were even supposed to be putting pressure on some of their component suppliers to ensure their hardware was Linux friendly. I don’t get why they would now withdraw the m1330 and other laptops from the range. I know this is never going to happen but what I would like to see is an option when you go to customise any machines on their site with different operating systems. For me it’s a difficult one because they could well say there’s not enough customer demand to warrant selling Linux machines but they’re buried on the site and not offered at all in the outlets, so it’s no wonder people aren’t buying them, the company isn’t promoting the product! If you owned a shop and you put a new product out the back somewhere hidden under a load of rubbish it would then be pretty stupid to claim customers didn’t want them. Put them in the shop Window and sock horror they might sell 😀

      I have to say that on the netbooks Ubuntu is the default option which I’m really pleased to see. In adverts and brochures they send out the Mini 9 and Mini 12 are both Ubuntu by default, same with the website. I wonder why this is ok for netbooks and not for laptops any more apparently. I sincerely hope I’m just overreacting and we’ll see the laptops back soon but I figured someone had to say something.

  11. I have posted a blog entry with screen scrapes of the Dell Ubuntu offerings in the US.

    http://platechnotes.patrickarchibald.com/2009/02/dell-ubuntu-usa-products-february-6.html

    Not great but a start. I would prefer a “No OS” option on all systems. I would probably install 8.10 over an 8.04 pre-install anyway.

    • Dan says:

      Thanks Patrick, that’s really interesting to compare. You can see that the US site has a lot more options. I wiped the pre-installed Ubuntu off my machine pretty quickly but only cos I’m a convicted distro hopper, I was much happier doing this than wiping Windows and subsidizing Microsoft. No OS would be a great option but due to Dell’s deal with MS I don’t think we’ll be seeing this any time soon, this yet another example of why monopolies are bad. Hardy is the LTS version and still fully updated so I can see why Dell would use it.

  12. bobby says:

    I own a dell m1330 (ubuntu preinstalled) and i can attest to the fact that its a great machine. i went through hell just to buy it because only the vista version could be gotten here in Nigeria. i paid a friend in the US to buy it on my behalf and ship it down (paid extra cost of shipping) i got the dell for a price $300 higer than if i had gotten the vista version locally (plus the risk and having to wait for over 3 weeks)I could easily get a dell m1330 running vista from a local store here and easily load Ubuntu on it . But for the first time I want to vote with my pocket and support a hardware company that support Linux. so i know how many UK people must the feeling now. but you can always buy the dell and reject the eula.. yeah its a painful process (for both parties) but we must remember that freedom doesn’t always come free.. it sometimes take an extra effort. if a huge number of people start rejecting their MS EULA then am sure dell would do something about it.

    • Dan says:

      Thanks for the comment Bobby, inspirational words I would say. I do wonder if perhaps buying the Vista machine and making a big public point of rejecting the EULA and claiming a refund would be more effective in sending a message. I might end up doing that with my next purchase. I hope this laptop will last me another year though 🙂

  13. eagle says:

    Maybe Dell is just giving the UK what you want. How many people do you know who have purchased Dell desktop or notebook computers? Have even the people in your local linux user group purchased any? From what I have heard, the UK is having a tough time letting go of their Microsoft desktop solutions. Strange, since Ubuntu is the local boy.

    Once you get more people saying, “I just put my money where my mouth was and bought one,” then you’ll see companies take it more seriously. If it took even you this long to part with a couple hundred to get an Ubuntu computer, then why should they make it any more available for your neighbors?

    In contrast, Linux netbooks and Dell Ubuntu notebooks are selling very well in the U.S.A.

    • Dan says:

      @eagle Yes I take your point, that’s why I asked whether the demand was too low in the UK specifically, I want to know. I can tell you though that I bought this machine at the start of 2008, I actually started the order process on 28th December 2007. That was before Dell officially started selling Ubuntu machines in the UK, I was right there att he head of the queue so I’m not sure what you mean by “If it took even you this long to part with a couple of hundred to get an Ubuntu computer”? My previous computer was a desktop I built from components and the last computer actually I bought with Windows on it was in 2003. I think you’re probably right that Ubuntu machines aren’t selling as well in the UK as the US which and I really don’t understand it. Like I said in the article if they’re not selling then I can accept the business reasons for removing them from sale. To answer your query I know 2 or 3 other people from my local LUG that bought Dell Linux machines. If we go wider than just people living in my area I know at least a dozen or more. I know this isn’t a fair representation of the larger general population as these people are Linux fans and not your average guy in the street. Maybe this isn’t enough to justify selling then, all I’m saying is I’d like to know. Just wanted to answer you queries though and set that straight. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  14. Epicanis says:

    I had seen some stories posted online speculating that the low proportion of netbook sales with Linux lately has a lot to do with how difficult it is to find them these days.

    I keep wondering if it’d be worth encouraging people to go ahead and buy the “Windows®” version if the Linux one isn’t available and then seek out the EULA-refusal refund.

    If enough people pester Dell et al for Windows® refunds for their Linux netbooks/laptops/etc. that they couldn’t get preinstalled, maybe they’ll take the hint. If nothing else, having to pay their employees to spend time processing the complaints and refund demands might counter whatever magic discount Microsoft offered them to drop Linux versions…

    • Dan says:

      @Epicanis I have been wondering if it sends a clearer signal to buy a Windows machine and then claim a refund publicly documenting it, I’ve always been worried that it wouldn’t work and I’d be stuck paying for Windows though. Many people have claimed refunds and documented how they did it well before me I know that. I’m sure if enough people did then companies would get the message

  15. Ben says:

    In my opinion, the crime here is the domination of Windows.

    Dell have no right to assume that you will use either Windows, or any other operating system, on their computer.

    You should, by law, be offered hardware at the right price. Operating systems should be made available as an additional extra – and it would be quite reasonable for Dell to recommend only Vista if they like – but I think it’s about time the powers that be start to rectify the situation.

    I want to buy hardware – with or without an OS (though I’m sure Dell made a nice job of putting Ubuntu on there and making it work nicely than I could – I don’t expect this).

    It should be made illegal for the ‘default’ to be Windows, including the main function key on the keyboard – there’s no reason they can’t put a square on there or a nice little Dell logo is there?

    This is a huge issue, and seems to show that Dell just don’t really care about anyone in particular – it’s not about making money (surely they’d get the same profit if I bought a blank machine? or are they taking backhanders from Microsoft – selling the OS at a profit – they can always add that amount to the basic cost of an empty machine!)

    • Dan says:

      @Ben Yes this would be great but I can’t see the government changing the law around this in any way, the UK Government is so far up Microsoft’s arse it’s sickening. That’s coming from someone who worked in the NHS and saw the Microsoft love-in first hand, yuk! I have to say though I don’t expect Dell to care about me or anyone else, corporations don’t do that. I won’t get into political ranting but all corporations only exist to serve themselves and destroy all others at any cost, this is the magical “free market” which will supposedly fix all our ills. Not working too well at the moment is it? Most of the worlds financial systems are screwed but you never hear it reported as a failure of the free market system, the WTO, the IMF and the rest of them… I kinda did rant there anyway sorry, it’s a subject best saved for another post perhaps. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  16. Grant says:

    Dell UK offers of Ubuntu seem to oscillate between having lots of machines with Ubuntu and very few.

    I got one of these XPS M1330s last year and it was on and off the website a lot whilst I was thinking about my purchase. For what it is worth Dell appear to be selling them again on their UK page…

    • Dan says:

      @Grant Thanks for the comment, seems you’re right, I just checked and the Ubuntu m1330 is now back on the site but the Mini 12 is gone this time. I wonder what they’re up to, do they just list Linux machines as they build them and have surplus in stock? Seems odd, most systems are built to order and they could just take a Vista m1330 and format it, they must have Ubuntu install images ready to go. Still seems strange to me. I’ll update the post to reflect the changing situation though. Thanks very much for letting me know! 🙂

  17. Dan says:

    I posted a new article updating the situation as it seemed a lot to put in a comment Dell Follow Up

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