Friday, May 25, 2007

Dell Linux Analysis

After the big news of yesterday has died down a bit, I began to think of what possible consequences, the move by Dell could cause. As the world's #2 computer seller, they can certainly do a lot of harm/good, depending on how things turn out. I'd like to remind my readers of this prediction last year.

Firstly, as I mentioned in my blog yesterday, it's competitive pricing will cause a lot of problems for computer dealers in Malaysia and much of Asia that have been selling computers with pirated copies of Windows pre-installed. Computer retail has a notoriously razor thin margin. They could previously shave RM 350 off the price by installing a pirated copy of Windows. With the Linux Dells being $100+ cheaper than Windows ones, that margin is wiped out. Maybe they'll all become Dell dealers. Buying cheap Dells and pre-installing pirated copies of Windows on them for a RM 100 service charge or something like that. As Dell is moving away from direct sales into retail, this is certainly a possibility.

Secondly, hardware support in Linux will improve big time. At the moment, Dell is merely selling Linux on machines that already have Linux drivers to begin with. Like I mentioned previously, the hardware vendors will have to start to make Linux ready hardware as Dell can only put in hardware that works with Linux into this line. If this line does well, which it should, since it's much cheaper than the Windows ones, Dell will help move a lot of Linux hardware boxes. Dell has also pledged to work with the hardware vendors to include Linux support. With the might of Dell behind Linux, the hardware suppliers will certainly have to cave, thus removing the biggest stumbling block for Linux adoption.

Thirdly, as I had blogged about in the past, if Dell can show a profitable market for Linux boxes, other Tier 1 vendors will follow as well. HP wouldn't want Dell to become the de-facto supplier to the Linux market. Neither will Acer or any other brands. In fact, Toshiba Italy had even announced plans to pre-install Linux on select lines of their notebooks. Dell has just started an avalanche. They have avoided sabotaging Linux by saying that they will have no preconceived targets to meet. People who don't want Vista but want to upgrade their machines, can easily buy these cheap machines and install XP on them. Thus, the floodgates to Linux have been opened. The other vendors must respond, or they will see Dell suck up market share like crazy.

Finally, it's interesting to see how the tables have turned. In the past, we Linux users had to pay the Microsoft tax anyway, to buy a computer to install Linux on. There is no real point in assembling your own computer these days as you cannot really beat Dell on pricing. So, everyone was forced to pay the tax regardless of whether they used Windows or not. With the current pricing scheme, Dell is turning everything on it's head. People will start buying Linux computers to install other OSes (BSD, Solaris, OSX, Windows) on them. If anyone told me about this last year, I would've wondered which planet they were from.

These are exciting times ahead for Linux. Linux dominance is pretty much assured now. The OS is rock solid compared to Windows. It has more eye-candy than OSX. It's certainly more user friendly than Vista. Plus, it's mostly FREE. I would encourage my friends to start brushing up on their Linux skills. As it is, they're already requirements for many technical jobs. Other than the people who insist on Excel for doing simulations, there really isn't any reason not to use Linux anyway. To those people with existing Linux skills, it's time to clean up that resume.

PS. If anyone wants the latest Kubuntu CDs, I've got a couple with me. Just holler.

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