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Dell Offering "Open" PC 426

Sans writes "Dell began offering a new desktop Dimension E510n PC this week with no operating system installed. The machine is designed for people who want to run open-source software such as Linux instead of Windows. The PC comes with a blank hard drive and a copy of the FreeDOS operating system, which can be installed by customers."
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Dell Offering "Open" PC

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  • by It doesn't come easy ( 695416 ) * on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:30AM (#13721508) Journal
    This is the kind of thing that leads to misleading statistics...News headline: "Dell offers PCs without Windows but demand remains close to zero." Microsoft spokesman "It's obvious to us that most PC buyers want Windows running on their machines yadda yadda yadda..."

    Who would buy this machine? A inexperienced home user? They wouldn't be interested in a computer that wouldn't even start up out of the box. Business? Business would buy the equivalent Windows machine for $70 less and replace Windows with Linux (assuming that was the intended use for the FreeDOS machine). Geeks? They'd recycle an old machine or build their own.

    If Dell was serious about providing another OS on their hardware, they'd partner with a Linux company (Red Hat, Novell, Mandriva, Linspire, etc.) and let the Linux company provide the software support.
  • news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:30AM (#13721510) Homepage Journal

    Dell has been selling machines with FreeDOS for some time. We've bought several (including the machine I'm typing this on) for work. Let me know when they start to ship with AMD chips. That will be news.
  • Re:news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by It doesn't come easy ( 695416 ) * on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:34AM (#13721541) Journal
    The news is that the machines are now available "at the consumer level". However, it will flop. The typical home user is not going to buy a computer that they can't take home, set up, turn on, and have it work.
  • Re:SHENANIGANS! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScootyPuffJr ( 912925 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:36AM (#13721560)
    Have you considered that it probably does cost $30 to Dell? I remember hearing that dell pays $15 per license for plain XP, so this isn't an unreasonable price.

    Microsoft offer tremendous volume discounts to OEMs to ensure they ship their computers with Windows.
  • good start (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rayde ( 738949 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:40AM (#13721593) Homepage
    this is a good start, too bad they're including FreeDOS disks and not free Ubuntu disks [ubuntu.com] though. But I'd guess that the people who would buy this sort of machine already have access to some distributions.
  • by Evil W1zard ( 832703 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:40AM (#13721596) Journal
    While I agree for the most part this isn't much of a savings and the average home user probably won't bit on this, but there was one point in the article that is a truth and that is companies who use Dell will often have their own software licensing and baseline which means they wind up removing the OS that comes with the box. But a couple posts down someone mentions the cost savings between a naked OS and one with Windows and the savings are really not much. Additionally I wouldn't be surprised if Dell already caters to companies who make large purchases from that to give them "open" boxes... All-in-all this doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me.
  • by MaestroSartori ( 146297 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:42AM (#13721612) Homepage
    ...quite apart from being "old news", that is.

    The number of times I've seen people post on here adamant that they don't want to pay the Microsoft Tax on a new PC, only to see the response so far to this, makes me smile. Complaining that the difference in cost is too small, or that Dell hasn't chosen their favourite Linux distro to put on there, doesn't have an AMD processor, blah blah blah.

    It's a PC without a preinstalled forcibly-paid-for copy of Windows. So Dell gets Windows for cheap, you don't see a huge price difference, but all those people who wanted an MS-free PC can now buy one. You can't possibly be upset by that, can you???
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:47AM (#13721651)
    In the past, PC makers that offered non-MS variants were allegedly punished by MS with higher prices, delayed access to info on future MS OSes, etc. That both Dell and HP are offering machines with Linux suggests that the power has shifted, that MS needs HP and Dell more than those big PC makers need MS.
  • Hey (Score:1, Insightful)

    by freewaybear ( 906222 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:47AM (#13721654)
    At least is a start, even if it's not entirely new "news". If they actually promoted this, and gave it a better price drop, people might realize that there is a choice, and that "windows" is not the computer. We can hope. Xandros user
  • Re:If it's so open (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <tomstdenis@gAUDENmail.com minus poet> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:47AM (#13721655) Homepage
    Clearly AMD can't support the load of having customers therefore we regret to inform you that we will not offer AMD products ... um...

    Self-fulfilling prophecy if you ask me.

    If you want real choice just find your local vendors and get them to order what you want. You support local business, you get what you want and often you don't pay more [or much more] than the monopoly controlled "wonder box" you get from Dell [et al.]

  • by wesman83 ( 700326 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:50AM (#13721684)
    if they put in a Nvidia card for the linux users.
  • No shi*t (Score:3, Insightful)

    by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:54AM (#13721719) Journal
    Volume pricing on a windows license is about $30. We've covered this before. The price differential should be exactly $30 - it is - Dell is being honest (good for them).

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:56AM (#13721741) Journal
    Microsoft spokesman "It's obvious to us that most PC buyers want Windows running on their machines yadda yadda yadda..."

    Well - Let's be honest. Most buyers do want Windows on a PC they buy.
  • by FellowConspirator ( 882908 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:57AM (#13721754)
    How can you tell? Well, for starters, you can buy the same system with a hard disk twice the size with a 17" LCD monitor and Windows Media Center Edition for the same price.

    More importantly, the 510n comes with an ATI card that will be difficult to get to work properly with X.org (dunno if Xi Graphics is still in business), whereas the 510 uses an Intel chipset that, while not great, will probably work better.

    And why not simply install a popular Linux distribution on it from the get go? They could "brand" it simply by adding a package with Dell-logo wallpapers, themes, and icon sets.

    Dell's just grubbing for some positive press.
  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:57AM (#13721755) Homepage
    Businesses usually have contracts with Microsoft regarding the OS and will want a standardized image on all systems. So, although many larger businesses will also negotiate contracts with machine vendors, there could certainly be a market for this for businesses.

    Home users who already have a licenses Windows version but need new hardware might just wanna buy this box and get their nephew to install the Windows they already have (or just add the old HDD to the new box) instead of just throwing away their expensive Windows license.

    And as for geeks; if they don't have an old machine lying around, then in these times, it can be cheaper to just buy a complete box, then build your own. And why would a true geek want to do something he already knows he can?
  • by klubar ( 591384 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:05AM (#13721821) Homepage
    This isn't news (Dell has always had OS options). The real news will be when Apple offers machines with a choice of operating systems. Then we will be able to see how much the cost of the OS tax is on the Mac.

    Remember... in slashdot land:

    Lack of Microsoft choice = bad
    Lack of Apple choice = brilliant
  • So true. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot...kadin@@@xoxy...net> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:18AM (#13721909) Homepage Journal
    I've noticed the same thing.

    While personally I probably won't buy a PC from Dell one way or the other, at least not a desktop, I'm happy to see that they've taken this small step.

    I could see this model appealing to people (admittedly, a small market) who are interested in playing with Linux but don't want to assemble their own system, for either technical or personal reasons, e.g. it's not worth their time for the money saved.

    Rather than viewing it as a half-step less than Dell should have taken, I'd prefer to view it as a half-step more than they could have. After all, if they hadn't done this, we never would have noticed. It just would have been business as usual.

    To me personally, I hope that it will encourage other models to be sold like this as well, particularly from other vendors (IBM/Lenovo, do you hear me?). This is mostly because I'm more in the market for a notebook right now than another desktop, and I prefer IBM to Dell, but I'm still not going to slam Dell for doing the right thing, even in a small way. That just seems counterproductive.

    But then again, this is Slashdot -- counterproductivity is the name of the game. :)
  • by bedroll ( 806612 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:19AM (#13721922) Journal
    Of course, the problem is that you can still get a cheaper machine with Windows on it. People typically go to Dell because they sell machines cheaply. The numbers will get skewed because few people are even interested in one of these "workstations" versus a "desktop".

    When you think about it, we all know that the typical Linux installation is far less resource intensive than Windows, so why don't they sell it on their lesser hardware? I really think it's just pandering to a particular crowd that said, "hey, I want this." Now they say, "look, we have it and you're not buying." Well, of course not, I don't want to pay $1k for a workstation, I wanted a $500 desktop with Linux on it.

    I also want to see the price drop if I get a machine without Windows. Microsoft thinks Windows XP is worth $100. Why is it that if I buy an OS free machine the price changes $0?

  • by Ulrich Hobelmann ( 861309 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:25AM (#13721965) Journal
    But where does Dell guarantee that it will even run Linux with 100% of the hardware working?

    Maybe *that* is why they don't bundle Ubuntu or Fedora with it...?

    I'd rather go with something like Sun's Ultra 20, which comes with Solaris pre-installed and is certified to run Solaris, Linux (RedHat), and Windows.
  • Re:good start (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zoward ( 188110 ) * <email.me.at.zoward.at.gmail.com> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:31AM (#13722023) Homepage
    Dell doens't want to have to offer support for machines running Ubuntu Linux. FreeDOS is easier to support. If the end user wants to put Ubuntu, FeeeBSD, etc, on the machine they can do so without Dell having to support it.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:34AM (#13722071)

    It's a PC without a preinstalled forcibly-paid-for copy of Windows. So Dell gets Windows for cheap, you don't see a huge price difference, but all those people who wanted an MS-free PC can now buy one. You can't possibly be upset by that, can you???

    First, you can buy this same machine, from the same vendor, with a better hard drive, and with Windows for significantly less money. That does not sound like they have removed the cost of Windows. More likely they are still paying a flat fee to MS and have added an additional fee to cover whatever "penalty" MS is charging them. Second, this comes included with FreeDOS. Why do you suppose that is? No one really uses it. It is not popular, well supported, or in demand. Why would Dell ship any OS with this, and when shipping with an OS, why such an obscure one?

    Clues to answering these questions may be hidden in their choices. I surmise that they ship an OS because for some reason paying someone to press copies of FreeDOS and package it is cheaper for them than not including any OS. Is that perhaps because they have a contract with MS that penalizes for or forbids them to ship boxes without OS's? If I were a large PC seller and was going to ship an alternate OS, I'd pick one of the popular Linux distributions. Pretty much any of them, on the surface, seems to be a better choice. What does FreeDOS have? Well it is DOS based, like Windows. Could Dell have a contract that forbids them from shipping Linux specifically, or one that is worded in such a way that only FreeDOS and Windows meet the specifications of OS's they are allowed to include without incurring a penalty. Either of the above contracts would be blatantly illegal and a violation of anti-trust statutes. Of course it would also be a protected trade secret and the only people who could do anything about it would be Dell and MS. I know if I was running Dell I would not bet the future of my successful company on the hope that the American legal system would properly deal with MS. It has already shown that it is willing to ignore MS's tactics.

    Or maybe Dell just does not want to piss off any given faction of Linux users by favoring another. I wouldn't bet on it though. My opinion is MS is behaving in a criminal manner and this is just more indication of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @10:35AM (#13722078)
    Let's be really honest: Most buyers don't know they don't want Windows on a PC they buy.
  • Re:news? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @11:14AM (#13722356)
    I'm sure Dell also makes money from the crap software that they install on every Windows machine (such as music match). So without windows, they lose that additional revenue. Granted, I'm sure its not a significant amount of revenue per machine, but it would more than likely add into their pricing scheme.

  • by bedroll ( 806612 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @11:21AM (#13722414) Journal
    Those aren't the cheap machines. The Dimension 2400 is the cheap machine. Without any discount you can buy a 2400 for $399.

    As for the license difference, I'll point out how he's off the mark in a reply to him.

  • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2@earthsho[ ]o.uk ['d.c' in gap]> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @11:21AM (#13722422)
    When you think about it, we all know that the typical Linux installation is far less resource intensive than Windows, so why don't they sell it on their lesser hardware?
    I'm not sure that's true anymore. Sure, Linux will run on a '486SX with 16 megs of RAM. And handle all the usual stuff like apache and sendmail. But Windows 98SE will run on that same machine and give you a GUI, and even run Microsoft Office 2000. Slowly, slowly, I'll grant you; but there's a perception about that shiny flashy graphics are somehow always easier to deal with than simple text-mode commands. And while I believe that is false, I also know that offering lower-spec hardware with Linux is not going to do anything to challenge that perception; in fact, it will only serve to reinforce it. Most people are clueless and just want a machine with big numbers, under the impression that it must be better {car analogy: they only care about engine cc's, not how far it will go on a litre of fuel}. You're essentially making out that a lower spec machine is only good enough for running Linux, not good enough for Windows.

    What eats resources is the X11 windowing system. {Though object-oriented, interpreted languages -- such as the JavaScript embedded into web browsers -- probably don't help much either.} It used to be that KDE was horribly bloated, but GNOME is no longer a lightweight alternative. Of course there are less resource-intensive desktops {my favourite, which I will be using in my own distro, is WindowMaker} but most people are expecting a Windows XP clone. Hence, KDE or a heavily-customised GNOME.

    I'm sure that you could create a display server optimised for applications running locally on a desktop machine with a single monitor {most people's configuration} and it probably would be less resource-intensive. But would it really be worth it? Who is the intended market? The people that are running older hardware generally know what they are doing. There are still a few '486 and first-generation Pentium boxes in every co-lo; and they churn out web pages and e-mails that are viewed on machines with ten times the RAM and twenty times the processor speed.
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @11:35AM (#13722538) Homepage
    The thing that strikes me about this thing beyond the fact that it is an overpriced machine for business use is the fact that it has a chipset from one of the biggest foot draggers when it comes to Linux drives. If any big vendor is going to have an "open systems" speciality model it should be nvidia based.

              This machine seems engineered to fail.
  • by Nf1nk ( 443791 ) <nf1nk@yahoERDOSo.com minus math_god> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @11:46AM (#13722631) Homepage
    Another bonus is that when you by from the small business side the prices are somewhat lower
  • No thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blazer1024 ( 72405 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @11:49AM (#13722653)
    I'll stick to building my own PC's. Been doing it since I was a teenager, and I have no desire to buy a big name PC. Plus, I don't trust what they put in there. I've seen the inside of several low/mid range Dells, Gateways, Compaqs, etc. With the exception of the very new Compaqs (from HP), most of them use cheapo generic parts, inadequate cooling, etc. Sans-OS or not, they don't interest me. I like to know exactly what I put in there. Also I don't have to send my PC's off to some "authorized repair center" where some PFY will likely erase the hard drive and reinstall everything to "fix" it.

    Just my two cents.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @12:06PM (#13722792) Homepage Journal
    Ahem. Most *home* buyers.

    Most corporate buyers don't want an OS or applications. They've already engaged in volume licensing deals with their OS vendor and their applications vendors. They're just going to strip off the software that's on there and install their own customized load.
  • Seriously.

    Everytime I've tried to do a 'naked' install on a 'brand-name' low-cost system, I end up with driver problems, either with Windows or Linux.

    Something is *always* futzy. You *always* end up downloading strange roll-up drivers from the manufacturer, and they never seem to work properly. Basic things like suspend/resume end up being flaky unless you can figure out the exact set of drivers your system has been certified 'workable' with; this is true even down to the revision!

    Sony, Dell, HP, Compaq, the lot of them. In the low-end market, these machines feel like crap.

    I thought the purpose of buying a system with a pre-install was so that you didn't have to go throught that hassle?

    Mind you, I haven't had near as many problems with the higher end stuff.

    It's been awhile since I've purchased one of these, however, so I can't be sure.
  • Re:If it's so open (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oliphaunt ( 124016 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @12:10PM (#13722823) Homepage
    In sales meetings with Dell enterprise reps, when they present product roadmaps, there is always some young turk who wants to impress the boss with how cutting edge he is. He's the one who asks "Well, are you going to offer these with the new AMD chip? It has SEVENTEEN superpoop pipelines and HyperMondo logic AND it measures your pupil dialation and then makes coffee if it senses that you're too tired to read one more page of slashdot. Well, are you going to offer it?"

    For as long as I've been going to these meetings, the answer from Dell has been the same: "We'll offer AMD when they can support our production volume and comply with our JIT order process." For five years now they've been saying the same thing. Dell got the message- they don't care about the GHz battle. They don't care how many superpoop pipelines the chip has. They don't care about whether or not it implements the latest instruction set tweaks.
    All Dell cares about is that when they place an order, the order gets filled, immediately, no questions asked- which is important, becuase Dell assembly plants sit on less than 24 hours of inventory for any given part. AMD doesn't have the fab capacity or logistics systems to meet that demand criteria, and Intel does. End of story.
  • Re:news? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Surt ( 22457 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @01:26PM (#13723512) Homepage Journal
    Heh heh. That was pretty funny. And your imagination that dell has (multiple!) actual experts working for them, you should go into writing sci-fi!

    On the other hand, I don't believe that dell's windows cost per pc is $0 or even $30, which is the lowest discount anyone has been able to find so far, and since dell sells support as a separate line item, it should be possible to drop the windows cost without adding in a corresponding support cost (ignoring the crappiness of dell hardware for a second, it would be nice to be able to buy a dell without paying for windows or for software support ... and since dell can ship a pc with a hardware-test partition on the drive, i don't see any reason they can't offer hardware support separately from software support).

  • Not open enough! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by springbox ( 853816 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @01:32PM (#13723557)
    The last time I tried to take one of their desktop machines apart.. Well.. I couldn't.. Half of the case was locked in by some hidden mechanism and the motherboard appeared to be epoxyed onto the surface of the frame. Not to mention that the only reason the other side even came off in the first place was because it was at one point very forcably removed. I wish they'd also make these things servicable by users. Talk about vendor lock in..
  • Duel Booting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by klept ( 895849 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @01:32PM (#13723562)
    When I bought a Dell this year, I requested dual booting so I could have Windows and Linux. -Yes sometimes Windows is better to use. I'm a realist on the OS not a fanatic. I dont like Windows anymore than the next intelligent person, but they have such a hammerlock on so much out there that sometimes it is more efficatious to use them, like for mmorgs.- Anyhow, Dell said they did not support dual booting. The machine came with a Windows xp, and a lot junk an AOL hookup, MacAfee virus protec, etc.. It would really be nice if Dell would support some meaningful things like dual booting.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @01:43PM (#13723648) Homepage
    Well - Let's be honest. Most buyers do want Windows on a PC they buy.

    Most buyers want something that runs their (Windows) applications. Windows as such? Most people don't recognize much more than the boot screen and start menu. Not that it really makes any difference for the end result.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:37PM (#13724003)
    Then again, I don't want/need support, and if I did then I'd probably buy a Dell.

    Which would be the biggest fucking mistake of your life. Half of the people working their phone support don't speak english well enough to take down your name and the other half will give you the run around until you wind up with one who doesn't.

    And you had better hope you don't have a fucking defective item, because good luck getting that shit replaced. I bought an LCD from them in July and it took three weeks calling them every day to get them to finally offer me an exchange, and by then I was so sick of it that I just returned it for a refund. A refund that still hasn't shown up.

    So fuck dell. Who cares if they ship Linux or not? I'd rather have a piece of shit gateway from 1995 than anything from dell.

  • Re:If it's so open (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oliphaunt ( 124016 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:45PM (#13724056) Homepage
    whoa whoa whoa, ease back there. I'm not attacking you, I'm attacking the silly chip marketing garbage that we all have to put up with. Just because I'm typing this on a machine that's running a P3600MHz on a 440BX chipset doesn't mean I'm a luddite or a troll. And yes, I have an Athlon 900MHz box right next to it. Yes, I agree that Intel and MS are both evil and that Dell is propping up both of their illegal monopolies.

    The problem is that Dell doesn't have a social conscience. What they do have is a very successful business model, built in part on top of very rigorous control of their supply chain. It would be downright irresponsible of Dell to jeopardize that business by making a decision based on some trendy marketing gimmick- whether that gimmick is called "HyperThreading" or "Predictive Poopchute Execution." Yes, I'm being glib with my choice of terms, but the point is that when an enterprise is making a long-term technology decision, the detailed implementation of that technology is often transparent to the ultimate decision-makers. Dell knows this and has accepted that sometimes technical superiority plays second fiddle to production capacity.

    As a for-example, consider a large business deciding to buy ERP software- do they buy Oracle or do they buy SAP? Let's look at this from 3 levels- end user, technology architecture, and CIO. The end-users don't care whether the code runs on IBM, Dell, or HP- and they shouldn't need to care. The hardware layer is ideally transparent to them. All the end-user should care about is whether the application does the job they need it to do without getting in the way of actual work.

    Zoom out to a different level: the architecture guys probably care a lot about whether it's IBM or Dell, but they probably don't worry too much about what chip is inside that box as long as the box has the cojones to support the load of running the application. All they care about is if the application goes down becuase there are too many concurrent users, or someone at the colo kicks the plug out, or someone ouside the datacenter digs up the cable with a backhoe. As long as ther are no bugs in the chips, the actual chips inside the boxes running the application are transparent to them.

    Now, zoom way out to the CIO level: the CIO cares about overall cost, and he cares about perception of success. The CIO's job is to make sure that the technology STAYS transparent to the end users. Now, he knows that if there are delays in implementation or roll-out, his team will take the blame and probably bear the cost. So his biggest concern after the initial choice is made is keeping the project running on schedule, to avoid the perception of delay and cost overruns due to techology complications. Assuming for the moment that SAP and Oracle are equally easy to roll-out, inservice, and admin, and equally easy for the end-users to use, the CIO's biggest concern is picking a server vendor who delivers products on schedule without any hiccups. He knows that HP is all fucked up from a corporate perspective, and they need 5+ weeks lead time on new boxes, and they're having delivery problems, so he's not picking HP. That leaves Dell and IBM as serious contenders.

    He doesn't give a shit about Hyperthreading or Intel vs. AMD because it doesn't impact his decision at all... that is, unless he picks Dell, and Dell pushes boxes with AMD, and then AMD has supply problems and Dell can't ship his boxes on time... Dell knows from experience that the CIO won't blame AMD, he'll blame Dell. It only takes one story about a project that's 6 months late and $5 million overbudget because of the missed Dell delivery timelines, and all those CIO's out there go back to IBM as a default choice.

    That's why Dell can't run with AMD in ANY of their boxes- Dell is still trying to prove to John Q.CIO that they're a serious player in the enterprise space. There is still a widely-held perception that Dell computers are, as a whole, a bunch of s

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982