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Old 06-04-2007, 07:21 AM   #1
pixellany
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Dell Linux Follies


A week after the official announcement, I finally stopped by the local Dell mall kiosk to run the test.
Looking at the laptops, I asked which one was now available with Linux.
----This one---the Inspiron 1505.
Same Price?
----No---the Linux version starts at $599 (The Windows version is $699)
I express surprise at the magnitude of the different, and the friendly salesperson only confirmed that was indeed correct.

I did not have time to dig for the details and none were offered.

This morning, I tackled the question on the Dell site. Arriving at the page for the 1505, there is no mention of the Linux version. Finally--hidden in a menu at the left ("below the fold") is the link "open-source PCs". Now I will be able to compare. After 20 minutes slogging thru all the option dialogs and reading the fine print, we have:

Windows:
Base price 699
Add $29 for the same wireless card offered in Linux version (Intel 3945)
TOTAL $728

Linux:
Base price 599
Add $50 to get the same memory as the Windows version (1GB)
Add $79 to get a similar video card**
TOTAL $728

So, it would appear that there is no $ savings in getting the Linux version. We'll leave it as an exercise for the student to determine how the marketing strategy is developed, and what role is played by Microsoft.

What I found most aggravating was the effort required to get this answer---obfuscation is alive and well!!

Next move: Call them and see how hard it is to get to the same answer.

**The Windows version offers a "free" ATI 256MB card as part of the package. Linux version standard is basically shared memory, and the only option is an Nvidia 256MB card
 
Old 06-04-2007, 07:34 AM   #2
Hangdog42
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Quote:
This morning, I tackled the question on the Dell site. Arriving at the page for the 1505, there is no mention of the Linux version. Finally--hidden in a menu at the left ("below the fold") is the link "open-source PCs".
That's funny, I've seen Ubuntu on their banner ad at the top of their home page. It doesn't always show, so it must be part of the rotation. It could be easier, but they are giving it prominent play.

Quote:
So, it would appear that there is no $ savings in getting the Linux version. We'll leave it as an exercise for the student to determine how the marketing strategy is developed, and what role is played by Microsoft.
Uh, yeah, and anybody expecting anything different wasn't really paying attention. Between the discounts Dell gets on the licenses and the fees they collect from pre-installed crapware, the OS price gets knocked down to almost zero. Yeah, Microsoft has a hand in this because they would rather almost give the OS away and hopefully hook you for life than have you use another OS. Besides, if you use Windows, you're more likely to buy Office and other MS products. Did you price in an office software suite?


Quote:
**The Windows version offers a "free" ATI 256MB card as part of the package. Linux version standard is basically shared memory, and the only option is an Nvidia 256MB card
Considering the state of the Linux ATI drivers, I'm not surprised. The shared memory chip is probably an Intel, which is decently supported in Linux.

It's only my opinion, but I think Dell deserves kudos for what they are doing. Yeah, they could do it better, but this is their first foray into Linux, and I'm sure the learning curve is mighty steep. They've probably got Microsoft cheering for the demise of this program, and I'd hope that the Linux community doesn't join in.
 
Old 06-04-2007, 07:57 AM   #3
pixellany
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Hangdog;
Good points all....
Why is the price the same? WE know what the MS strategy is, but the average buyer is clueless. (It is interesting to speculate on getting the Windows version and then going for a refund--I'm not going to try it though...)

What bothered me the most were two things:
---The totally misleading comment from the salesman
---The amount of work required to get the right answer.

We can always hope for a day when we see the choice of OS simply as one of the options--maybe the price will never be different, but at least the choices would be clear.
 
Old 06-04-2007, 12:32 PM   #4
Hangdog42
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If I remember correctly, the refund that was issued for Windows was pretty trivial (somewhere around $50 US, but I could be misremembering that). And since that is the full whack for a Windows license, once you add on the discounts for crapware, it probably pushes that figure close to $0. Or at least close enough that Dell decided to keep the price the same (maybe to avoid pissing of Microsoft even more?)

However, there is one thing that is missing, and that is normally people buy additional software along with their new computer. And I know from looking at the Dell site, Office is far from free. However, I think the Ubuntu laptops come with OpenOffice as well as the usual assortment of software, so value-wise you're getting a lot more software on the Ubuntu system than on the Windows system.

Quote:
What bothered me the most were two things:
---The totally misleading comment from the salesman
---The amount of work required to get the right answer.
To be honest, I'm not surprised by either of those. Kiosk attendants are probably minimum wage part timers that have no incentive to learn anything about their product. To be honest, I'm surprised the salesman even knew what Linux was.

Quote:
We can always hope for a day when we see the choice of OS simply as one of the options--maybe the price will never be different, but at least the choices would be clear.
I heartily agree. Toss Linux next to XP and Vista in the OS choice for any of their computers and lets see what happens. Maybe it will happen once Dell has a better feel for the Linux market.
 
Old 06-04-2007, 01:45 PM   #5
pixellany
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Quote:
However, there is one thing that is missing, and that is normally people buy additional software along with their new computer. And I know from looking at the Dell site, Office is far from free. However, I think the Ubuntu laptops come with OpenOffice as well as the usual assortment of software, so value-wise you're getting a lot more software on the Ubuntu system than on the Windows system.
Of course, one of the huge differences with Linux and Open-Source---will we find this information on the Dell site? (If it was there, it did not jump out at me.)

And, of course they don't want to upset MS.....
 
Old 06-05-2007, 01:39 AM   #6
Simon Bridge
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DELL Linux OK. But the business solutions link shows windows only.

Building Windows boxes as close as possible to the Ubuntu ones:
Lets compare... (Windows version in brackets).

Basic Desktop Model: E520
$599 rf$749 ($709)
CPU: E4300 (Pentium D)
OS: Feisty Fawn (Vista Basic)
Monitor: 17" AFP (same)
RAM: 1GiB DDR2 667MHz (same)
HDD: 250GiB SATA 7200rpm (same)
Opt: 16xDVD/RW (same)
VID: i950GMA (IX3000)

Looks like Ubuntu version is going to cost an extra $50... but wait - what about the software... add MS Office (for OOo) - I'll have to go Office Pro since this is the only option to include presentation and database. That's +$399 right there! (Office Basic provides Word, Excell and Outlook at +$149.) And what about those essential security things windows needs? So, to continue:

Productivity
Open Office (MS Office Pro)

Online Business Growth Tools
none (none) ... someone correct me?

Security
ClamAV-free download (McAffee 24mo - Dell Rec)
... I felt OK including ClamAV since McAffee AV is limited term.

Additional Security
none (webroot spysweeper 1 user)
... linux users can block spyware like this.

Finance and Accounting
none (none) note MS Money costs $77, Ubuntu equivalents are free download.

Business Applications
none (none) ... is there a linux equiv for Adobe Acrobat 8 Pro?

Hmmm... I see you get a winmodem and AOL (6mo) for free.

Conclusion E520
Linux: $750 (No discount)
Windows: $1220
Saving: $570 ($650 with discount)

Though, personally I'd like the option to not buy a monitor and to downgrade some components to make the box cheaper. DELL could have included a modem option and some other things.

Laptop Model E1505N
$649 rf$849 ($728)
CPU: T2080 (same)
OS: Feisty Fawn (Vista Basic)
Monitor: 15.4" WS XGA (same)
RAM: 1GiB DDR2 667MHz (same)
HDD: 80GiB SATA (same)
Opt: 24xCD/DVD-Combo (same)
VID: i950GMA (Radeon X1400)
BAT: 53 WHr 6-cell Lithium Ion (same)
WIFI: i3945a/g (same)
WARR: 1yr (1yr)

Looks like a $80 deal, but the linux version would normally be $849 (or $120 dearer). The windows version is basic however... Works 8, no security. To bring it up to speed, you are still having to shell out for software licenses. We conclude by adding the software components like before (including software where the equivalent functionality exists in Ubuntu by default, exception for security):

Conclusion E1505
Linux: $849 (no discount)
Windows: $1195
Saving: $350 ($550 with discount)

Enhanced Desktop Model XPS410N
$669 ($1306)
CPU: E4300 (same)
OS: Feisty Fawn (Vista Home Premium)
Monitor: none (same) * not standard *
RAM: 2GiB DDR2 667MHz (same)
HDD: 250GiB SATA (same)
Opt: 16xCD/DVD-burner (same)
VID: 256MB nVidia Geforce 7300LE (same)
WIFI: i3945a/g (same)
WARR: 1yr (1yr)

The price includes the software markup. $879 if I am prepared to accept the default packages.

Conclude XPS 410 N
Linux $669
Windows $1306
Saving $637

Overall, it is the software license cost which racks up the Windows box price. Whether you agree, or not, about the "equivalent" nature of the software choices, there is no escaping that Ubuntu comes with a huge range of gratis software by comparison. Budget users may not be inspired, preferring to accept the minimalistic offering.

These comparisons suggests that Linux can provide savings of around $500 on average (counting software). If you don't care, then the average price is about the same.

Of course, the budget users will still be better off with the cheapest available hardware and gambling with the compatibility. Can you build a 100% compatible linux box for less? ... Probably.

Last edited by Simon Bridge; 06-05-2007 at 01:43 AM.
 
Old 06-05-2007, 01:58 AM   #7
Simon Bridge
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Without going to much effort, and using ballpark figures...

CPU: E4300 $140
Mobo: P5PE VM $100
HDD: Seagate Baracuda 160GiB SATA $60
Opt: 16x DVDRW (Pioneer or Samsung) $150.00
RAM: 1GiB DDR2 ~$90
PSU+Case: ~$50
total... $590

i.e. about $600...
In other words, the Dell prices seem in line with the expected HW cost. Would have expected more of a discount coming from such a large dealer though.

Have I left anything out?
Can anyone do it cheaper?

However, most people will have some of these components as part of a previous purchase.

Last edited by Simon Bridge; 06-05-2007 at 02:00 AM.
 
Old 06-05-2007, 07:41 AM   #8
Hangdog42
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Wow, that is an excellent analysis of the situation. I'm also surprised by the hardware situation. Like you, I thought Dell would get a larger discount from manufacturers. I guess this suggests that the hardware business has really become a commodity business and margins are absolutely razor thin, regardless of who is doing the buying and in what quantities.
 
Old 06-05-2007, 09:15 AM   #9
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This puts an interesting economic on selling Windows licenses... if that is where the profit lies, then HW vendors are ill advised to ship linux. However... I suspect that HW vendors are more likely to feel some relief in not having to shave margins further for the windows license cost.

I have a similar analysis around someplace for a Dick Smith computer, by tracking down DSEs advertised OEM Windows prices and subtracting. I also got about 30-50% saving on the software price on low-end boxes. In some cases this was as much as $500... enough for decent hardware!

Want a cheap linux box... hang about. The windows thralls will be selling their old XP boxes to downgrade to a vista restrictions-based system. The suddenly old hardware (all those non hdcp compliant goodies) should plummet in price.

Last edited by Simon Bridge; 06-05-2007 at 09:18 AM.
 
Old 06-06-2007, 06:59 AM   #10
ethics
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There's also some hubub surrounding extended warranties on the Linux boxes (i.e. there is none), saw it on Slashdot the other day.

Personally i like choice, and Dell offering choice is a good thing, it may work out at the same cost (but who needs as much RAM in Linux as they do in windows?) but gettign them supplied fully working, with all hardware supported wil lgo along way for coporate adoption.

Dell seem to be testing the water, and i don't blame them.
 
Old 06-06-2007, 07:14 AM   #11
pixellany
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I too commend Dell for making the offering. My original issue was only that it seemed poor form to spread the news of a new offering, and then make the customer struggle to find the details.

Case in point: Had I been an average customer---having learned that the Inspiron 1505 was one of the models available with Linux---I might have never found it on the Dell site.

Extended warranty? Bad investment (for anything) IMHO. But again, should not be coupled to the choice of Linux vs Windows. For some, that could convey the impression that the Linux box was more likely to break.

Someday, we'll be able to choose OSes just as we choose display, RAM, or hard-drive options.
 
Old 06-06-2007, 11:06 AM   #12
ethics
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pixellany

Extended warranty? Bad investment (for anything) IMHO. But again, should not be coupled to the choice of Linux vs Windows. For some, that could convey the impression that the Linux box was more likely to break.
That was pretty much the point of the article too, as if they were to say that Linux could cause hardware failure. Although if some muppet has a software failure, he might treat it as hardware, knowing no different.

At least as it stands, people actively search out Linux, research it (or post "HELP! which distro for me?" threads here...) and have an incling of what is involved. Your average Joe might opt for Linux as it is cheaper, then cry when MS office (that he/she stole from the shelf at work) won't install and try to send the machine back.

In reality, it's a difficult position for Dell to support Linux, but they should fully support the products they release....
 
Old 06-06-2007, 12:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ethics
In reality, it's a difficult position for Dell to support Linux, but they should fully support the products they release....
This is really going to be the crux of the problem for Dell, and to be honest, for Linux as well. I've dealt with Dell's support, and as-is, they are nowhere near capable of supporting Ubuntu so where will Joe Sixpack go? I know Dell has started some Linux forums, and supposedly has contracted with Canonical for support, but it will be critical that Dell get the support bit right. Otherwise, I'm betting that we'll see a FUD campaign from Microsoft on how hard Ubuntu is to use.
 
Old 06-06-2007, 05:39 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hangdog42
This is really going to be the crux of the problem for Dell, and to be honest, for Linux as well. I've dealt with Dell's support, and as-is, they are nowhere near capable of supporting Ubuntu so where will Joe Sixpack go? I know Dell has started some Linux forums, and supposedly has contracted with Canonical for support, but it will be critical that Dell get the support bit right. Otherwise, I'm betting that we'll see a FUD campaign from Microsoft on how hard Ubuntu is to use.
This is overstated... DELL do not support Ubuntu. This is clear on the site.

However, a minimal thing like they do for Windows couldn't be hard... you send them your box, they rescue your data then restore to image.

The lack of extended support for hardware is ending the wrong message. To be fair, the Ubuntu boxes are aimed at existing Linux users and do not seem to be intended to encourage new linux users at all. Remember, DELL is intending to supply existing demand only. (Short-sighted, OK, but there it is.)

Personally, I'd have liked to see the same HW support and more customization options. Some effort to match the options for the equiv. HW in the Windows section.

Bad points are all marketing...
1. Lack of customization options
... like Linux cannot handle the HW range

2. Lack of extended HW warrenty
... like Linux could damage your HW

3. No minimal OS "support"
... mixed message: maybe Linux is just too reliable?

4. Business customers redirected to Windows
... like Linux is not fit for commerce

5. No budget option
... like Linux has higher TCO

Though we should realize that MS FUD will occur no matter what.
 
Old 06-07-2007, 07:41 AM   #15
Hangdog42
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Quote:
This is overstated... DELL do not support Ubuntu. This is clear on the site.
I'm not so sure this is true, but the bottom line is that they are going toneed to do so if they continue to offer Linux. The vast majority of users out there probably don't know an OS from a hole in the ground. They just know that their computer either works or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, they are calling the person they bought it from. So this is critical for Dell.

Quote:
The lack of extended support for hardware is ending the wrong message. To be fair, the Ubuntu boxes are aimed at existing Linux users and do not seem to be intended to encourage new linux users at all. Remember, DELL is intending to supply existing demand only. (Short-sighted, OK, but there it is.)

Personally, I'd have liked to see the same HW support and more customization options. Some effort to match the options for the equiv. HW in the Windows section
.

I see this as symptoms of a long standing problem, namely that the hardware vendors themselves don't support Linux. If Dell sells a load of stuff with Ubuntu on it, that might start to change. And the extended warranty debacle was probably a misfire on Dell's part as they've already announced that it is coming back. Sometimes companies expose their own internal arguments and flaws for the world to see, and I think that is what happened here.

Quote:
Bad points are all marketing...
1. Lack of customization options
... like Linux cannot handle the HW range

2. Lack of extended HW warrenty
... like Linux could damage your HW
Again, Linux gets very limited support from hardware manufacturers, and since Dell is relying on them for drivers and updates, this is more a reflection of that than anything else.

Quote:
3. No minimal OS "support"
... mixed message: maybe Linux is just too reliable?
I'm going to disagree. They have established a Linux forum on the Dell site, and they have contracted with Canonical for support. To me, this seems to be on a par with what they do for Windows.

Quote:
4. Business customers redirected to Windows
... like Linux is not fit for commerce
I think you're overstating this. Dell is responding to the IdeaStorm site, which is largely individuals. Business has almost always lagged behind end-users in adopting technology, and I expect as Dell gets more comfortable with Linux, and if Linux sells, we'll see Dell moving to making Ubuntu an option alongside XP and Vista.

Quote:
5. No budget option
... like Linux has higher TCO
I'm confused. Your own research shows a lower cost of purchase, once you move beyond the basic hardware and OS. People doing comparison shopping will see that too.

Last edited by Hangdog42; 06-07-2007 at 07:43 AM.
 
  


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