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More on Dell Dropping Linux Support 392

Posted by timothy
from the company-politics dept.
coolgeek writes: "In this previous Slashdot story, we discussed Dell's claims of slow sales as their reason for dropping Linux support. (article on c|net News.com). Today, this article on Reuters news reports: 'Citing internal Microsoft memos, the nine states also said that in 2000 and 2001 Microsoft pressured Dell Computer Corp. into dropping plans to offer the open-source Linux operating system on some machines it sells.'" Update by HNQ: eWeek got more details about the memos. Update: 03/19 12:26 GMT by M : I think Hetz accidentally changed this story's setting when he added the update above. Fixed.
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More on Dell Dropping Linux Support

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  • Preloads... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s390 (33540) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @05:11AM (#3185877) Homepage
    are Microsoft's air supply. They'll battle red in tooth and claw for preloads. But if they lose them, well... Windows is dead, we all know this.

  • Oh hurt me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arker (91948) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @05:17AM (#3185887) Homepage

    Microsoft warned that the sanctions sought by the dissenting states would cause havoc in the computer industry and force the company to withdraw its Windows operating system from the market.

    This is hardly the first time they've 'threatened' to pick up their marbles and go home. They would like to portray themselves as a veritable Rearden Metals, but in fact Bill Gates has at least as much in common with Boyle as he does with Rearden.


    Would it really be such a disastrous thing if MSFT simply "withdrew from the market?" Hah. Doooonnnnn't throw me into that brer patch, whatever you do!


    The short term results would include a little disruption, opportunities for the quick witted but a bit of pain for the slow ones. Within a year the industry would be in much better shape though, one way or another. I can only hope MS would be stupid enough to actually carry through on that threat.

  • How Do They Know? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @05:27AM (#3185906)
    Do their figures include machines bought without operating systems or just the ones where they shipped RedHat with the machines?

    We've bought 10 Dell servers to run SuSE and I bet we're not alone.

    Normally there is no point paying people like Dell to install Linux for you anyway because they don't set it up how you want it.

    If you'll end up trashing it, setting up a decent partitioning scheme and reinstalling it then you might as well save a few quid on having them muck it up first.
  • Re:huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Znork (31774) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @05:36AM (#3185920)
    This was about stopping Dell from shipping Linux for desktop machines, not rack mountable servers.

    Microsoft knows that as long as they control the desktop they can eventually take the server market. After all, what good is a server if the clients wont talk to it? They know that the only thing that can ever imperil them is if they lose control over the desktop, because if they do lose control they're dead in a year or two.
  • by mmusn (567069) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @05:56AM (#3185957)
    As far as I can tell, Dell has never made much of an effort to sell Linux on their machines.

    I have bought several Dell machines through work. You know: "workstations" for engineering and scientific applications. If that isn't where you would run Linux, I don't know where you would. Dell didn't sell Linux pre-installed on those machines. Our sales rep promised to credit us for Windows and ship the machines without an OS, but they ended up shipping with Windows anyway and charging us for it as well. Going through the hassle of sending the stuff back and refusing payment would have cost more than to just pay the Microsoft tax.

    If Dell has sold Linux on their PCs at all, it must have been on some low-end or mid-range machines that engineers probably wouldn't want anyway.

    As far as I can tell, Dell's Linux efforts were a publicity stunt of no real value. Perhaps Microsoft put them up to it so that they could point to some supposed "competition".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @05:58AM (#3185959)
    As a concerned consumer and as a software developer for 20+ years, I wrote to the Florida State Attorney's office and stated my position on this and included some technical reasons how the monopoly affects developers and users. Apparently many more did as well since the latest trial is including more about the actual problems in buying a PC without being forced to pay the M$ tax and having a pre-load of another system.

    As Earl Pitts says, "Wake up America". Write your government officials instead of just bitching on /. or in a newsgroup.

  • Re:Preloads... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by robinjo (15698) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @06:20AM (#3186001)

    However, it's easy peasy for those Win98 users to upgrade to more stable Windows versions. Their old software works and the OS is pretty similar to use.

    If they upgrade to Linux, there's a lot more to learn and new software to buy/find to replace their current Windows apps. When you think about it, the licence costs are not that bad compared to the loss of time.

    Don't underestimate the difficulties. Linux is cool, it's fast and it has great apps but that isn't good enough for people to dump a working solution and take a step towards the unknown.

  • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle.hotmail@com> on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @06:28AM (#3186018) Homepage
    ...I read this part of the article and couldn't help but wonder...If it's not the Feds, and it's not the dissenting states...who then, Superman?

    "The plaintiffs
    are not here to punish Microsoft," Sullivan said. "The plaintiffs' goals are to make Microsoft behave properly."

    The "remedy" phase of an anti-trust case is like the "penalty" phase of other criminal trials: It's when the punishment is meted out.

    So why aren't the plaintiffs seeking punishment? They should be there to punish Microsoft. Their goal is to solve the problem and prevent future violations of the law. If they aren't truly seeking punishment, then it strikes me the states might be hedging their bets: Waiting to see if the judge will enforce a harsh remedy (and face the wrath of the Bush administration and the Ashcroft goon squad.) If the judge won't do that, they'll be able to easily sell out for a cheap "PR Win" against MS where they settle and the majority of people who don't know enough about computers to care will say "Good, they took care of that Microsoft thing. Now I can go back to the net without worrying my porn will be cut off."

    It's also laughable to me that MS' lawyers can argue, with a straight face, that evidence of on-going criminal conduct is somehow "irrelevant" to the penalty phase of their trial. I do my best to avoid situational logic, so the best way to decide if this isn't a completely bullshit argument is to replace Microsoft with Lenny the Mobster.

    If Lenny the Mobster is charged with operating a sports book, and while out on bail on these charges (which he has since been convicted of,) he set up a NEW sports book, that would certainly seem like relevant evidence to me in considering whether the defendant had any intention of obeying the law in the future, and whether a stronger sentence might be needed to reform him.

    Microsoft should not get special treatment. Microsoft has broken the law. Multiple times. They have been convicted multiple times, despite doing everything they could to worm out of responsibility including:

    1) Lying (IE couldn't possibbly be unbundled)
    2) Buying off the Bush administration
    3) Buying off much of Congress

    If it was Lenny the Mobster charged with murder, racketeering, or anything else, they could (and have, in the past) use everything including the kitchen sink against him. Why does Microsoft deserve preferential treatment?

    MS is like a child, defiant to the last that it deserves no punishment. That's basically the argument they're presenting in court: They don't want to make the changes proposed by the dissenting states because those changes would end most of their monopolies in 6-18 months. MS seems to be arguing that there should be a lesser punishment simply because they say so.

    When this all works itself out, and MS is over (or sold, divested, whatever) there will be a collective hangover. Things will be weird for a few months, but ultimately more healthy.

    Think of it like ending a relationship with a crazy girl: Yeah, you lose great sex for a little while (millions of video games) but you also get all the heartache and bullshit of dating a crazy girl (autoexecution of VBScripts in emails, gaping web-server security flaws)...

    Yeah, it hurts at first, but ultimately you're a better, stronger person with (hopefully) an open, easy to use OS with lots of games, groovy programming environments, and other fun multimedia content the likes of which hasn't even been invented yet.

    In other words, the rich pageant of computing that's been prommised for the last decade, but never delivered by Microsoft.
  • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle.hotmail@com> on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @06:39AM (#3186039) Homepage
    I was as shocked as anybody. I went in to buy toilet paper and a dog toy, and decided for fun to see what software they had. To my surprise, on the top shelf, displayed prominently right beside Windows XP and Office XP, were boxed distros of Mandrake, Red Hat, and SuSE. I almost had a heart attack. (I don't go to the electronics area at Walmart, well, ever. Except for yesterday.)

    Also, this part of the article misses the point and will confuse those "non-tech savvy" folks it hoped to enlighten:

    The risk for Walmart.com is that some customers shopping for a deal may unwittingly buy the computer and discover later that they
    have to buy a version of Microsoft Windows, which could cost hundreds of dollars.

    Truth is Windows costs hundreds of dollars whether it's pre-bundled with the hardware or not, and it always has. The difference is many users don't notice that cost when they pay as a portion of their pc's purchase price rather than actually handing the cashier a product that rings up $299.99.
  • by Bloody Bastard (562228) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @06:41AM (#3186041)
    I think we should have at least the choice of buying computer hardware WITHOUT any OS. M$ will complain about piracy, but now everybody know (I hope) there are other choices which don't imply in copying commercial SW (like FreeBSD and GNU/Linux).

  • Re:Preloads... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rseuhs (322520) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @06:55AM (#3186068)
    However, it's easy peasy for those Win98 users to upgrade to more stable Windows versions. Their old software works and the OS is pretty similar to use.

    I've seen an XP-user unsuccessfully trying to run Worms Armageddon, so it's not that "easy peasy".

    If they upgrade to Linux, there's a lot more to learn and new software to buy/find to replace their current Windows apps. When you think about it, the licence costs are not that bad compared to the loss of time.

    If that were true why is Microsoft fighting so desperately to prevent an open marketplace where computers are sold with or without OS just like they are sold with or without monitor?

    Face it: The majority of people only want a browser, email and a .doc-compatible Word-processor. KDE/Linux and StarOffice can provide that easily. They will just use what is preinstalled, will not upgrade and will install few if any updates and software.

    And of course there are also power-users who prefer KDE over the minimalistic Windows-GUI.

    I see no reason why those people should not be allowed to choose between a Linux-machine and a Windows-machine which is 10 to 15% more expensive.

    And: No I don't think the majority will choose Linux. No, I don't think Linux is the best solution for the majority, yet. But for about 30 to 40% it is the best solution right NOW and forcing them to use and pay for another solution is just plain communism. (to use a word that Microsoft-fans like to use)

  • Re:Obvious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bero-rh (98815) <.bero. .at. .redhat.com.> on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @07:22AM (#3186108) Homepage
    if you was in charge of a Linux software co., wouldn't you wake up each morning wishing you could get the big manufacturers to pre-install Linux instead of Windows?

    If you rely on retail sales, definitely not.
    Someone who buys a box with Linux preloaded will usually not pay for a box containing the same OS, and a company preloading your distribution won't necessarily pay you anything (unless you make a proprietary distribution. Yuck.)
  • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle.hotmail@com> on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @09:27AM (#3186441) Homepage
    Unfortunately, in anti-trust law, there is this (IMHO absolutely insane) doctrine, that the purpose of the law is purely remedial and not at all punitive. That is, you can only use anti-trust law to "correct" for the anticompetitive behavior of a company. You can't actually punish the company.

    I'm not sure you can really seperate the two. If the judge wishes to "correct the monopoly," it has to be possibble to get Linux on a workstation from Dell and Gateway, and other mainstream manufacturers. The reason Microsoft put prsesure on Dell (to stay vaguely ontopic here) is that (whether accurate or not) Dell is seen by consumer-level buyers as a quality PC.

    Having Linux available on Dell systems could have legitimized (in the consumer-mind) something that Microsoft wished to keep on the fringe, Linux on the desktop.

    Anything that "corrects the monopoly" (or at least levels the OS playing field) will destroy Microsoft since, as numerous other posters have pointed out, nobody with large amounts of money to spend on OS and hardware really wants to buy Microsoft, they just sort of have to. In fact, few people besides Microsoft want them around at all.

    How else can you correct the monopoly? Keep in mind that MS has a track record of "settling" antitrust matters, only to violate said settlement when it is convenient to their business plan to do so.

    Fuck it, I'm moving to the Netherlands.
  • Nope. The Sherman Act outlaws predatory practices used by companies to bankrupt competitors. But there's nothing against having a monopoly per se. MSFT is in trouble for abusing that monopoly power through anticompetitive practices.
  • by StarTux (230379) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @10:02AM (#3186669) Journal
    Not so much because they ship crappy code, they can do that all decade long for all I care.

    What I care about is innovation, competition and the rights of business to conduct business the way they see fit.

    Unfortuantly, when you get a monopoly they conduct business in ways to make sure no-one else thrives, hence the "PC ecosystem" becomes dominated by one predator who won't let any other threat to its dominance survive. Indeed a company within the "PC Ecosystem" that starts to thrive becomes a viable meal for the predatory MSFT (the next version of Windows is then likely to feature the same or similer product bundled within its confines, nbecause its proven itself to be popular). As for bundling, well this goes without saying; the PC ecosystem employed by MSFT is in actuality an "MS ecosystem".

    Too much damage has already been done by them, advertantly and maybe inadvertantly. Really hope the 9 states get a lot of what they want, but the release of the Windows source might be a little too much. Perhaps having every MSFT business dealing with the OEMs public and scrutinized might help, and indeed having many formats opened up with the stipulation that changes need to be documented well in advance.

    We'll see what happens. But for these anti-competitive and innovation stifling measures its the only reason I dislike them.

  • The One Surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 4of12 (97621) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @11:40AM (#3187400) Homepage Journal

    is not so much the strong arm tactics that MS was using to thwart the growth of a competing operating system, but that they actually had memos and such concrete evidence of the fact.

    I would have expected such thrusts to be communicated verbally to Dell so as to avoid this kind of embarrassment. Any written records could refer to "our joint efforts to establish a mutually successful partnership team" and other such drivel that would be understood to include the verbal tenets of the agreement.

    I mean, any drug dealer knows these things.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @01:30PM (#3188320)
    The headline is a little misleading. Dell has not dropped linux support. They continue to offer Red Hat on workstations (precision) and servers. I have bought several Dell machines with Linux preinstalled in the past couple of months. I doubt there was ever much demand for Linux on there home pc's (dimension) and laptops anyway. This is almost a nonissue since the precision "workstation" class machines start around $1200, within reach of most home users who might be interested in linux.
  • by maxpublic (450413) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @02:38PM (#3188904) Homepage
    While I can see how this might affect sales to the average Joe (assuming he's buying Linux or even knows what it is in the first place), how does this affect the knowledgeable geek? How many geeks actually buy premade machines to begin with?

    I prefer to buy all of my parts individually and put the machine together myself - as simple as this I don't see why you wouldn't want to, if only to control the quality of the workmanship (talking about home machines here, not corporate lot purchases). Just how many people who *really* know what they're doing buy a machine whole, unless it's something specific like a laptop?

    Max
  • Re:I doubt it, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday March 19, 2002 @03:56PM (#3189457) Homepage
    The "support problem" is really easy to get around.

    Restructure the support options for alternate OSes such that it's a money making proposition. With Linux, there will be a high likelihood that support is not an issue for them.

    People who want a "unix box with support" buy Suns, not Dells.

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