Computerworld reported today (March 1) that Dell has decided to put the brakes on their pre-installed GNU/Linux announcement of a couple of days ago. Typical. This, of course, raises a plethora of questions like:
Did they leave out ” . . . just kidding” from their news release? So let me see if I understand this: Being a newbie-with-portfolio to GNU/Linux, I can install — and have installed — and maintain GNU/Linux distros with roughly two-months of hands-on experience with GNU/Linux. So, Dell can’t install any variant of GNU/Linux on their desktops and laptops? Want some help, guys?
Does Dell really believe they have to test GNU/Linux all over again? File this one in the “let’s reinvent the wheel” drawer which — and I know I promised to play nice with Dell, but I can’t — remains consistent with Dell’s legacy of being an industry follower. Dell spokesman Jeremy Bolen says in the Computerworld article that “[W]hen you talk about an operating system, if Dell is going to install it and test it, it takes a lot of work” before getting it ready for the marketplace. Jeremy, pass this on to your buddy, Mike: It’s not like GNU/Linux is fresh out of the box — we’re reaching the two-decade point of the operating system’s existence fairly soon. Those years are involved with a lot of development, incidentally, which makes GNU/Linux the operating system that, gee, Dell seems to think highly of at the moment. Of course, this “ready for the marketplace” nonsense begs another question.
Does Dell really think there aren’t enough GNU/Linux wonks out there to hire/steal/cajole for tech support? One of the reasons given for what is turning out to be a world-class balk by Dell is that they don’t have training and support in place. That’s fair. So what’s the problem there? Go to any list like LinuxQuestions.org or LXer.com or my Internet hangout, DistroWatch.com, and the experts are there.
This is beginning to look like Dell biting off more than they can chew and starting the world-class backpedaling for which they pay their PR people those high fees. Either this, or the call came down from Redmond . . . .
A news item today at PC World heralds some groundbreaking news in the way of GNU/Linux being preinstalled on Dell desktop and laptop computers. So when I wrote in the Open Source Reporter FAQ that (and I’m paraphrasing here) your Grandma wouldn’t be using Debian, perhaps I had spoken a wee bit too hastily.
This is not to say that the distro on the Dell machines will be Debian, unfortunately, but the PC World article does mention that “other Linux distributions were also suggested by users, and that Dell will look into possible certifications with other Linux brands across its product lines.” All of which means that users may not be locked into Novell SUSE, but that remains to be seen.
But whatever Dell should choose to put on their GNU/Linux boxes, the underlying fact remains that when a corporate giant like Dell — and who hasn’t used a Dell, either at work or at home (and possibly both)? — provides the option away from prepackaging solely the Redmond-based digital sludge masquerading as an operating system they’ve previously offered, you know Dell isn’t doing it out of the goodness of their corporate hearts.
The demand is there, and Dell knows it. For all the nasty things I have said about Dell in the past, most (if not all) of it deserved, I now have to hand it to Dell: Maybe they get it after all.
Arguably, and with all the fanfare the news warrants, if nothing else this signals that GNU/Linux has officially arrived as a mainstream operating system.
Further, given a choice between a bloated operating system like the Microsoft’s new “Vis-duh” and a more streamlined GNU/Linux operating system that frees up the computer workings for more important things, which would you use (especially on a lower-end machine)?
This is not to say that I’m embracing Dell. On the contrary: I know their products well, having used them in the many office environments in which I have worked over the past couple of decades. In my current job, I use a Dell as a copy editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel. So let me be frank (and children, you can leave the room now): Dell has always lived up to its reputation as manufacturing hardware that absolutely and unequivocally blows. The fact that Windows-on-Dell can easily be described as hell squared is not lost on many people.
Having said this both here and over the last 15 or so years, however, no one is more ready than I am to give Dell another shot in using a Dell box or laptop equipped with GNU/Linux; crossing my fingers all the while that their hardware dependability may have increased as well.
If anything, improved Dell hardware coupled with Linux could just break me from the habit of spitting on the ground every time anyone mentions the computer maker’s name.