Dell's March To Linux PCs Won't Be A Walk In The Park - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Software // Enterprise Applications
News
4/5/2007
05:30 PM
50%
50%

Dell's March To Linux PCs Won't Be A Walk In The Park

Drivers that already ship with the Linux kernel, such as those for storage, wired networking, power management, and USB ports, won't be a problem, but others will.

In preinstalling Linux on consumer PCs, Dell's biggest challenge will be finding a full set of open source drivers for the hardware that will run with the new machines, says Dell's software architect on the project.

The computer maker will offer the open source operating system in desktops and notebooks following strong customer demand for the machines on the company's online sounding board, IdeaStorm.

Dell has a lot of details to finalize, including when it will start offering Linux consumer PCs, which versions of Linux it will ship, and how much support it will offer.

But Matt Domsch, Linux software architect for Dell, says the company is working on the details, including asking suppliers if they can provide open source drivers if one doesn't exist. "It's not a relationship challenge, it's a 'How quickly can we do it?' challenge," Domsch says. Dell has announced it's committed to using open source drivers where possible but will use proprietary ones if they work better or open source versions don't exist.

"Our goal for all of this is to not have Dell-specific drivers," Domsch says. "We want the same driver to be used all over the world." The reason is support. Dell hasn't said whether it will offer hardware-only support with the Linux PCs.

But Dell doesn't expect major problems providing support because people buying the machines likely will be techies who won't need much hand-holding. If that shifts, though, it could spell trouble. "If consumers were to buy preinstalled Linux," says Sam Bhavnani, an analyst for Current Analysis, "then Dell would be in for some really serious support headaches."

What's most significant about the decision to offer Linux-based PCs isn't the initial volume, it's that it shows Dell is listening to buyers again, says Richard Shim, an IDC analyst. Dell lost enough market share last year that its position as the No. 1 PC maker is threatened by its main rival, Hewlett-Packard. Dell doesn't know what sales will result from the Linux move, "but they're going to trust that the effort to increase responsiveness to customers is going to lead to future success," Shim says.

Dell offers Red Hat and SUSE Linux for servers, and offering two Linux distributions is possible, but cost is a factor, Domsch says. "It's not twice as much work to do two distributions," he adds, "but it's not zero work either."

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Commentary
2021 Outlook: Tackling Cloud Transformation Choices
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  1/4/2021
News
Enterprise IT Leaders Face Two Paths to AI
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  12/23/2020
Slideshows
10 IT Trends to Watch for in 2021
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/22/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Slideshows
Flash Poll