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Microsoft

Dell To Offer Windows-Less PCs 588

Posted by timothy
from the backdoor-in-the-fine-print dept.
An anonymous reader submits: "As a follow-up to the Slashdot story Dell No Longer Selling Systems w/o Microsoft OS, News.com is reporting that Dell will sell systems without Windows. Microsoft's new licensing terms stipulate they can't sell PC's without an OS (hence the removal of the NoOS option), so Dell will be offering FreeDOS as an option for some computers. It will come with the computer, but not installed, so that users may install any other OS that they wish. It's a very creative interpretation of Microsoft's licensing terms, and one I imagine Microsoft didn't have in mind."
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Dell To Offer Windows-Less PCs

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  • The obvious move (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msgmonkey (599753) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:10AM (#4069295)
    Who else could n't see this comming? Having said that I was expecting it to be some kind of Linux distro.
    • by joib (70841) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:26AM (#4069476)
      I guess they wanna charge you a few bucks extra for installing linux. As is said in the article, this is mainly aimed at big corporations who install their own stuff anyway, so they don't want to pay extra for a linux installation they probably won't use anyway.
      As to why use freedos instead of some 1-floppy linux distro, who knows?
      Maybe they don't wanna tarnish Linux reputation (which perhaps would hurt their server biz) as "that toy crappy thing which is included with every pc to circumwent MS contracts and everybody throws away anyway".
    • Let's face the facts (Score:5, Informative)

      by coryboehne (244614) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:34AM (#4069547)
      Microsoft can do pretty much whatever they want and most people and company's just don't really care all that much, however this last move was a bit too far and most definately an example of anti-competitiveness rather than the anti-piracy measure they would have you beleve it to be. However not being able to buy a PC without an OS is not a concern for the mass majority of people. Now, we're all /.'s and we definately care a great deal about this, mostly just because we're all nerds and geeks who like to install an OS for the fun of it, but another perfectly valid reason for our caring (and in my opinion more important) is the fact that it seems Microsoft is trying to be a bully agian and we are all just really, really tired of that position from MS, as a matter of a fact if they started to act decent I might actually have a few good things to say about them.
  • How many lawyers does it take to find a loophole like that?
  • If they're going to offer the software, without it being installed, why FreeDOS and not Linux? Is anyone actually going to use FreeDOS?
    • by Dalroth (85450) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:18AM (#4069388) Homepage Journal
      If they're going to offer the software, without it being installed, why FreeDOS and not Linux? Is anyone actually going to use FreeDOS?


      No, and that's the point. They don't have to support it. Linux is big, complicated, sometimes quite painfull to use. Dell most likely does not have the expertise in their call center to handle the influx of support calls a linux installation would cause, so I think this is a very smart move.


      They could, however, partner with a company like Mandrake or Red Hat in the future. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. Problem is, even with the party line "call Red Hat for help", they'll still be getting a large volume of Linux calls that they probably don't want right now. Maybe when the economy gets a little better.

      • by hoggy (10971)
        No, and that's the point. They don't have to support it.

        Connectix do something similar with VirtualPC for Mac. They sell various ludicrously expensive editions with different Microsoft operating systems and then they sell an el-cheapo, electronic download, version bundled with PC-DOS.

        No-one wants PC-DOS, but if you just want the plain app to install your own OS on it, that's the cheapest option. It allows them to stick to Microsoft's anti-competitive policies, but still give people the choice to do what they want.

        The installer even has an "Install Application Only" option so you don't even have to delete PC-DOS afterwards ;-)
    • of course not.. But imagine the discussion when they actualy made a choise for xxx-linux.. Freedos is one of a kind. With linux there are way to many ego's who would start whining about the "wrong" distro being chosen.
    • by SuperCal (549671)
      They do offer a dist. I think it is Red Hat. Dell had three options to fill different needs. The first is Windows, which is the most expensive option for people who want all the hard stuff done for them. Second is RedHat which is less costly, but required some work to learn. To make it easier they had linux tech support though RedHat. Finally Dell offered a No OS computer do customers who wants to the least expensive option at the expense of being required to do all the work in both installing and supporting the Free OS of their choice.
      It was this final option that MS's new policy removed. Dell now simply uses FreeDOS as a loophole to replace the third option.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Does it really matter? The whole point is that they are not shipping it with Windows. Anyone who is going to use an alternative operating system is likely going to install it themselves at one point or another. Even if they don't do it out-of-box, chances are likely they will reformat the hard drive eventually and do it then.

      So, why try to satisfy everone (Why not BSD?, etc.) when chances are the end user will do they're own custom install anyway?

  • Of all the free OS's out there, why FreeDOS of all things? (Not that there is anything wrong with FreeDOS, it just wouldn't be my first choice for a modern workstation OS).
    • > why FreeDOS?

      Fits on a floppy?
    • I think the logic is probably something like, if they preinstall a modern Free OS like Linux, they'd have to face a wave of customers (slashdotters, likely) who would (reasonably) expect them to back up such an offering with support as well.

      On the other hand, who still has software for DOS? Who'd use it? Hell, does it even run on the hardware (although I hear the FreeDOS team is actually working out a 32-bit DOS with some fairly modern features, so who knows what will come of this).

      The point is, no one in their right mind is probably going to call tech support complaining they can't get Evolution to connect to their Exchange Server, or why doesn't this modem work? It's basically a bone to throw at big customers site-licensed for Windows who want to buy bare-pc's and run their custom scripted installs for the standard software suite anyway (You know, I work for a site-licensed corp, and I've ordered Dells, and I didn't even know bare systems were an option until this whole story broke...their web-site isn't very forthcoming about this kind of thing, and probably will continue to not be)
    • If you aren't going to install an OS, and instead simply put it in the box, why not choose one that results in the user throwing away one floppy disk instead of throwing away all the media required for a bigger one? Most likely the user buying an OS-free computer isn't going to be using the pre-installed OS in the first place, so this makes the most business sense.

      Besides, do they really want to get firebomed by Debian zealots when they bundle RedHat? Or have all the RedHat cusy-life sorts sitting there scratching their head looking for graphical configuration tools in a bundled Slackware? It's easier to go with a non-issue. Like the unbelievable generic people in sample pictures included with picture frames: the least number of people will be offended.
  • Go Dell! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rknop (240417) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:14AM (#4069329) Homepage

    I'm heartened to see them doing the right thing-- continuing to be willing to sell customers completely legal things that they want to buy even if that is what another very powerful company doesn't want.

    On the other hand, it's utterly ridiculous that Dell would even have to perform this end-run around Microsoft's licensing terms in the first place.

    Anybody want to place bets on how long it will be before Microsoft changes their licencing terms again to prevent Dell from what they're doing now? (Or perhaps M$ will just tell Dell that they've decided not to licence Windows to them at all; they've used those sorts of threats in the past.)

    (Who appointed Microsoft as the regulatory agency for the computer industry anyway?)

    -Rob

    • Re:Go Dell! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:21AM (#4069419)
      > Who appointed Microsoft as the regulatory agency for the computer industry anyway?

      Bill Gates.
      • Re:Go Dell! (Score:3, Funny)

        by rknop (240417)

        I saw your message with .sig attached:

        Bill Gates.
        --

        -- He's dead, Jim.

        If only!

        (OK, I don't really wish him dead. I just wish him and every other Microsoft exec and lawyer to retire to a quiet life of recreation and contemplation, out of the public eye and completely away from the computer industry.)

        -Rob

      • Re:Go Dell! (Score:5, Funny)

        by argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:36AM (#4070395) Journal
        I thought this is what the /. community believed in? If you buy a product, since you've paid for it, you can do anything you like with it.

        Why shouldn't the same hold true for MS? If they've bought the Justice Dept, then they can use it as they wish.

        Is a government agency open-source or GPL?
    • Re:Go Dell! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Coplan (13643) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:30AM (#4069515) Homepage Journal
      I'm not so sure that M$ will change their licensing this time. I think they've been under a lot of pressure as of late. I think they have realized that people have this view of the "Evil Empire" and they have been making some PR moves lately that might make small steps to make them look more friendly than they always have been. Remember that issue where that guy discovered security issues in the XBox? MS didn't step in there to prevent the paper from being published. I think MS wants people to believe that they care about the end user.

      On the other hand, if they were to try to throw Dell under the bus, and change their licensing...not only would they loose a lot of respect from the consumers, but they'd loose the respect of Dell. I don't believe for a minute that Dell makes this move to spite MS. Dell is a business as well, and if their consumers aren't going to use Windows, they're more likely to buy a computer without it. Even if Dell were to offer said machines for cheaper than the windows-toting counter parts, Dell would surely make more money off of each computer, and not have to pay royalties to MS for that particular machine.

      It's great that Dell found this loophole. If MS were to do anything, I'd bet that Dell would make a big stink, the consumers would make a big stink, and MS would look more evil than it already does. Dell is large enough of a company now that it can actually get away with things like this under the shadow of MS. MS is on touchy ground...this is the OS war they never thought they'd have to deal with, and they're fighting companies that offer their products for free. It's all about image now -- they have to listen to consumers, they have to listen to retailers, and they have to end up looking good to win.

      On a side note, keep in mind the average linux user (who might potentially buy a machine without an OS). Chances are, if they buy from Dell, they're buying large quantities for a company that will run Linux. The minor difference in cost isn't always worth the extra trouble...so it doesn't impact a corporation nearly as much to buy a machine, rip the OS and start over. They practically do that anyhow. The typical consumer who uses linux is likely the same type of consumer who builds his own machines...so he's less likely to buy a Dell for his Linux box anyhow. Just an observation.

      • Two things: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130)
        First, it's lose, not loose. I hate to be a spelling Nazi, but this error is so common I have to mention it. I admit that the double-'o' sound with a single 'o' is confusing, but that's just the way English is. :)

        Second, the "minor difference in cost" isn't minor at all... I bopped over to Dell, to see the "freedos" option in action. Apparently they haven't changed the web page yet. More interestingly, I discovered that, for example, in a PowerEdge 1650 rack server the cost of adding a 5-client license of Win2k server increased the cost of the machine by 45%. I don't care how little anyone thinks businesses care about the cost of hardware -- only a moron pays an additional 45% for something they're just going to throw away, and any manager who approves such a purchase was ignorant of what they were actually approving.

        I can definitely see why Dell would want to maintain a no-OS option.
    • Who appointed Microsoft as the regulatory agency for the computer industry anyway?)

      Microsoft did, of course. And believe me, it for your own good.
  • Tell me I'm being cynical, maybe, but have you ever read even a Microsoft EULA? I mean, they don't just say 'Do not make illegal copies of this disc.' They say things like, 'You may not use this software on more than one computer. Even if the other computer is in a Jaccuzzi. Even on Sundays. Especially if there's a full moon.'

    Er, what I mean to say is, why would Microsoft stipulate no OS, but *not* stipulate no Linux, and if they did, why did Dell only figure this out now?
    • why did Dell only figure this out now?

      What do you mean "just now"? This was handed to them Late last week [slashdot.org]. I think less then a week is a pretty good turn around. It shows how much they don't like being bullied by Billy, but sell his junk so they can stay in the black, if you ask me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:15AM (#4069347)
    Instead of doing what Microsoft does, and interpreting every contract to the letter, Dell should have gone with the SPIRIT of the contract, not the letter. If everyone started to do this, the world would be a much better place.


    This interpretation of their license agreement can only lead to more money for the lawyers!

  • Maybe putting (but not installing) Mac OSX would be an even more interesting idea. Even though OSX won't run on PC hardware, it would still be an operating system...!
    • Because Mac OSX licenses would cost them money, and add no value to the customer. FreeDOS is (I'm assuming), free, and only costs them the price of the media to ship it on it (i.e. essentially nothing). That's probably the real reason it doesn't ship with Linux, Linux would take more discs/space. I bet they cram FreeDOS on their driver disc or something.
      • It would be more practical to use FreeDOS.

        Since Mac OS X does not exist per se for PCs, Dell would have to go to the next best thing: Darwin, the open source core OS from Mac OS X, which does run on x86 and is free.

        It would do a hell of a lot more than FreeDOS.
  • by klieber (124032) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:15AM (#4069352) Homepage
    1. The systems will cost just as much as if you'd ordered them with Windows in the first place.

    2. They're aimed primarily at large companies and won't, for the most part, be available to consumers via Dell's web site. (their workstations will, but not the generic line of optiplexes.

    Given point 1, I fail to see how this is a Big Deal, other than the obvious snub at Microsoft.

    --kurt

    • 1. The systems will cost just as much as if you'd ordered them with Windows in the first place.

      Given point 1, I fail to see how this is a Big Deal, other than the obvious snub at Microsoft.

      It is a pity that you don't get a price break for not having to pay for Windows. On the other hand, I'd be just as happy to know that Microsoft wasn't getting paid a tax out of my money for purchasing a computer.

      I may buy a new laptop sometime, on which I'll run some form of Linux. Unfortunatley, it looks like I may have to pay a premium to not buy Windows. All of the best deals on laptops come with Windows preinstalled! You pay more to not have Windows! It's ridiculous. I will have to decide (a) how much money I'm willing to spend to avoid patronizing Microsoft, (b) if there is any real chance of the whole "refund" thing working, or (c) if I should just sell out and bite the bullet and send off the Microsoft tax even though I don't want to buy or use their operating system.

      (If anybody can point me to somewhere where you can buy a reaonably priced and reasonably powerful laptop that doesn't have M$ on it (other than Mac-- I'm aware of and considering that option), please let me know.)

      I should note that at least a couple of months ago, CompUSA locally was selling OSless PCs. Their advertisement had the added costs for purchasing an OS to go along with it, and Windows did cost more than Red Hat Linux there. Hooray for some actual real costs somehwere. Of course, I suspect the good folks from the computer regulatory government (i.e. Microsoft) will shortly be coming along to stop CompUSA from this dangerous and borderline illegal behavior.

      -Rob

      • There's some really sweet white-box laptop deals available from http://www.discountlaptops.com [discountlaptops.com], including some tasty Sager notebooks. A friend of mine at work just got one, and it's really nice...I'd have no qualms about getting one if I didn't already have an office-issued Latitude (and I might just pick one up for my next home PC anyway). All of the computers at that site are available with no OS by default. I'm not sure if/when that will change, but it's definitely a nice option for you now.

        As for Linux interoperability, Linux-laptop.net [linux-laptop.net] had a few writeups about getting Linux running on some older Sager models, but nothing on the latest product line. I'd be very interested to know if anyone's tried this, how well it worked, and how much driver-tweaking and hair-pulling was involved in the process.
      • I know there's Yellow Dog Linux that runs on Macs, and my understanding is that they even allow dual booting (No! Imagine that!).

        Has anyone tried running YD Linux on a Powermac? Any thoughts on the results? I don't have a reason to do it (OS X works just fine for me, including XDarwin), but there's always that idea of retiring the old Powermac someday and turning it into a server. (Why? Um...because I can?)
        • OS X is rather slow on my Old World G3 tower. YDL is more than usable- one might say snappy and responsive. With all the software available on the distribution and the ability to run MacOS 9 as a VM, it's a good alternative to OS X.
      • >>I'd be just as happy to know that Microsoft wasn't getting paid a tax out of my money for purchasing a computer.

        In fact, with this deal you are paying a non-Windows tax. They are charging you the same money as if they were installing Windows and pocketing it. Plus they don't have any obligation to support Windows on this system, further lowering their costs, and the system with Windows was profitable in the first place. These systems are a practical joke by Dell and you're the target for thinking that you're some how better off.
      • by gsfprez (27403) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:15AM (#4069797)
        >it is a pity that you don't get a price break for not
        >having to pay for Windows. On the other hand, I'd be
        >just as happy to know that Microsoft wasn't getting
        >paid a tax out of my money for purchasing a computer.

        I would agree - except that we don't know this. After all - if the computers are the same cost - where's the extra money going?

        Its an assumption on our part that as part of the new licensing rules that MS has set up with Dell, HPaq, etc. that they don't pay MS for every box that goes out the door. Perhapse that IS part of the new deal with MS - every box out the doors of Dell means $10 to Redmond, else its $MSRP (what's that? $199 for XPlite?) per actual box leaving the OEM?

        In fact - the fact that you DON'T get a price break is really stupid. Who actually gives a shit if you get a copy of Windows? Gimme one, i don't care. I'll just dump it in the garbage, use it for kindling, make a cool coaster... whatever..

        I just don't want to pay for it.. or in the case of businesses and colleges running under MS License 6.0, I don't want to pay for it twice.

        So really - if i'm getting a computer - and i can get it with Windows and without, and its the same price either way.... why WOULDN'T you want to get a copy?
    • As the systems costs the same with or without windows,
      it's easy to figure out the real value of windows
    • by renehollan (138013) <rhollan AT clearwire DOT net> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:40AM (#4069975) Homepage Journal
      The systems will cost just as much as if you'd ordered them with Windows in the first place.

      Are you sure?

      At my last place of employment, we ordered about six Dell PCs for Linux-based development platforms. They came with a Microsoft OS (NT, I think). I called Dell, and they were quite happy to credit us about US$65 per license for every unopened OS installation media package that we sent back, and took our word that we'd reformat the hard disk without ever booting into the OS that was pre-installed.

      It certainly improved my opinion of Dell at the time.

  • by chip_hk (141132) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:16AM (#4069362)
    I have get a few new NEC PCs that are having FreeDOS installed, too.

    That just happened a month ago.

  • Thank God (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brennan73 (94035) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:16AM (#4069367)
    Considering that most vendors won't sell you a PC without a Windows license, I was beginning to wonder just what the hell the point of the Microsoft Select licenses was. I mean, wasn't it supposed to be that by buying them in volume, we'd get a discount? Wasn't this discount kind of, erm, compromised by the second license MS wants you to buy with new hardware?

    This should have been a provision of any settlement the govt. accespted in the first place, but at least someone is doing it on their own. If Dell makes this stick, hopefully others will follow.

    -brennan
    • Re:Thank God (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Peyna (14792) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:14AM (#4069794) Homepage
      I bet the local shop down the road from you would be more than happy to sell you a PC without a Windows license. Or you could just buy the parts or a kit online and build it yourself. Any monkey with a screwdriver and half a brain can assemble a computer. If you don't want to do the work, pay the extra few cents for the superior service and quality you will most likely get from the mom&pop shop down the road.
  • We all know why microsoft has that stipulation in their license... basically to force computer manufactures to put out machines with Windows if they wish to put out machines with Windows at all. So, if they wish to continue trying this, then they will have to be more explicit in what operating system they mean. Probably to the point that they say "Sell only PCs with Windows on them." I don't see this happeneing on Microsoft's part because they're not that stupid.

    <random flame>
    Such a monopoly. I know that justice is supposed to be blind, but I didn't realize that the DoJ was blind, deaf, and dumb all at the same time.
    </random flame>
  • by Latent IT (121513) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:17AM (#4069383)
    Here's a line of crap from the article:

    The new policy exists to prevent piracy and to better track OS shipments.

    My ass. It exists to sell MORE MICROSOFT PRODUCTS. I'm not even normally a MSFT basher, but even someone completely asleep at the switch should see something wrong with that line.
  • by Contact (109819) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:19AM (#4069395)
    N-series PCs will cost the same as PCs that ship with Windows, a Dell representative said.

    Forgive me for missing something here, but why? What's the incentive here, as opposed to just buying a normal machine and wiping the disc?

    • What's the incentive here, as opposed to just buying a normal machine and wiping the disc?

      One thing I can think of is that the labor for wiping the disk isn't free. If it takes minutes to wipe a disk, those are minutes that really add to the overall cost of the PC. If a company has to process many PCs, those minutes can add up to quite a few hours of saved labor, which isn't that big of a deal, but some bean counters probably care about these things.

      Another incentive is to have a computer whose MBR wasn't corrupted by Windows, which can cause some headaches when installing alternative boot loaders. I haven't worked with recent Windows installations, but sometimes an 'fdisk /mbr' DOS command is required on older installations to straighten things out.

      Yet another incentive is to not have those Windows CD-ROMs stare at you from their shelf. They can be really creepy when they start subliminal thought rays and who knows what else.
    • by OpenSourced (323149) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:44AM (#4069610) Journal
      Better said the list price. Keep in mind that those are bulk machines only to be served to bulk customers like large corporations. I tell you by experience that the list prices for such deals have practically no meaning.

      So say they are selling 1000 machines to Megacorp, and prices is 1000$ each machine. If they have to pay...lets say 50$ to the Microsoft taxman, and Megacorp suddenly says that it wants them without OS, well, its suddenly 50 grand for Dell to play with in discounts, free items or free support. It all adds up the same.

  • by jlower (174474) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:19AM (#4069396) Homepage
    If they're charging the same price for both with and without Windows, I'll bet they're paying MS a license fee for that Windows-less PC anyway (to keep MS off their backs). This could be nothing more than a marketing gimmick.
  • They cost the same? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Roached (84015)
    How can a computer with a free operating system cost the same price as that same computer with Windows? Am I missing something here?
  • Way to go Dell, doing your best to create choice for your customers despite Microsoft's illegal and immoral practices.

    Now if only Apple would learn this and not screw over their customers by attacking [macslash.org]people such as OWC [macsales.com] for providing 3rd party solutions to Apple's own shortcomings.

    And no, this isn't an anti-mac troll, for I am I Mac user! I'm just floored that Jobs would repress while Dell goes around nasty M$ restrictions fro their customers. Apple has something to learn here, I hope they learn it!

    Hmm... Me, a Mac fan praising Dell. Satan must be skating to work this morning.
  • by msgmonkey (599753) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:22AM (#4069424)
    People are asking, so I'ill contribute. Dell is an extremely loyal company for various reasons, for example they have never shipped an AMD system and (from what I read) where given priority for Intel chips when availability was tight. As a result of the above Dell dont want to rock the boat completely with MS, they just want to get round this new rule while causing minimal damage to their relationship with MS. Giving away FreeDOS practically guarrenties that you are n't going to get support calls because who's going to be running a DOS system in 2002?
  • FreeDOS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kaden (535652)
    FreeDOS is a great choice because it's basically gets Dell out of having to 'support' any OS other M$ ones. If Dell shipped, say Redhat, they'd get quite a few people who'd decided to try/learn Linux, and understandably these people might have quite a few problems they'd bog down tech support with. However, FreeDOS is a unique option because there are very few people who'd want to use it as a primary OS, and those who do almost by definition know exactly what they're doing.

    So in essence, Dell is selling a machine with an OS in name only, so they won't have to waste much or any time supporting the OS, but will still not lose customers who only want an Non-MS machine. It's a great idea, really.

  • For all of you asking why freedos and not Linux, here is the simple reason. To choose and install a useable linux would be very expensive for Dell both in terms of testing, support and keeping the OS up to date. Dell doesn't expect anyone to use FreeDOS, hell they probably haven't even tested to see if it will work. FreeDOS is simply the cheapest and easiest way to get around the licensing restrictions. Dell fully expects you to buy the machine throw away the freeDOS CD and install the OS of your choice.
  • A useful precedent? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by altgrr (593057) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:22AM (#4069433)
    The significance of Dell's move is not that they're shipping FreeDOS; it's not that they're not shipping Linux; it's the fact that they are trying to set a precedent - the precedent that allows users to choose which OS they install on their PC.

    For the sake of convenience, this is a good thing - I know of a case where the company I work for ordered a large number of PCs, removed Windows 2000, and installed Windows 98 (then the standard across the company).
  • by div_2n (525075) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:23AM (#4069448)
    Sure many of us here probably build our own machines, but if you do plan on buying one of these, do it on the phone. Ask the salesperson if they can ship it with Linux (or your favorite OSOS).

    If they say no, then tell them you want to place a customer request that they offer that because that is what you are going to install anyway and then order it.

    If they get enough requests for it, then maybe they will warm back up to the OSS desktop market.

    Of course, this may have no effect but it doesn't hurt to try.
  • MS first? Please. MS is a giant of a company with lots of $$$ but keeping a reseller like Dell happy has got to be pretty high on their list. And, for all you conspiracy types, it's probably just another piece of MS's grand strategy to beat the anti-trust lawsuit...:)
  • by NexusTw1n (580394) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:27AM (#4069483) Journal
    From the article
    The company will not promote the new models heavily, let alone make them easy to purchase. Optiplex n-Series desktops will be available only to customers who buy the desktops in large numbers through Dell's Custom Factory Installation program. Individuals will be able to purchase n-Series Precision workstations, but not Optiplex PCs, via Dell's Web site. The Custom Factory Installation Program allows customers to specify an operating system or have Dell install a customized bundle of software, such as Windows or Red Hat
    If you buy enough boxes from Dell, they'll put any O/S you ask for on it, Linux has been available for quite some time to big customers.

    This "new" PC system, is again only available to big buyers, you won't be able to order single Optiplexes sans Windows from their website.

    Basically this is an old news rehashed as new news marketing droid PR stunt.

    If you want a PC without Windows on it, your best bet is still Walmart.

  • It's a very creative interpretation of Microsoft's licensing terms, and one I imagine Microsoft didn't have in mind."

    Do you really think that Microsoft didn't think of this possibility? Do you really think that amongst all of their lawyers, advertising people, etc. they couldn't think of an outcome such as this?

    Heck, it wouldn't surprise me if Dell went to Microsoft and asked them what the other options were, and Microsoft told them that this WAS one of them!
  • by Vortran (253538) <aol_is_satan@hotmail.com> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:29AM (#4069505) Homepage
    Isn't this kind of B.S. that the anti-trust case is about? What kind of software vendor tells a PC maker they can't sell a PC without speciific software included?

    This is the kind of thing that makes me hope that M$ gets spanked clear into the middle of next year by Judge Kollar-Kotelly.

    The most charitable thing I can say about Micro$oft is that they could be so much more than the festering abscess they've become if it weren't for their blind imperialism and obsession with maintaining a hegemony.

    Vortran out
  • you've got dos!
  • Interesting thought (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hrieke (126185) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:37AM (#4069564) Homepage
    So if Dell is sell the systems for the same price as if Windows was included that means Dell is pocketing a nice hunk of change; What about MS? This has gotta hurt MS' sales since in the past companies buying the PCs would have a site license for x number of machines, plus all the systems coming in would already have an OS license included.
    Microsoft is taking a hit on this one, right were it hurts the most, in their pocketbook.
  • by panurge (573432) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:38AM (#4069570)
    What I find utterly amazing about all of this is that under a Republican president US industry seems to have forgotten all about its ability to move with the times and is engaged in a desperate war to maintain restrictive business practices. After all, it was completely restrictive business practices, aka Command Economy, that so comprehensively screwed Communism.
    If the world's most successful Intel PC maker has to do stuff like this, how can Microsoft argue it is not a monopolist?

    The pattern, from Microsoft to the RIAA, seems more and more protectionist. Which is all very well, but protectionism stifles innovation and new business models. It's a tragedy that at a time when things are changing so fast, when a grasp of what is happening in the rest of the world is increasingly important, that instead of having a government that can hold monopolists and protectionists in check and encourage innovation, we sem to have a US government that is run by them and thinks that foreigners are funny people who don't matter unless they might be able to stop oil from flowing.

    Dell has always been a company that challenged the conventions, and its low-cost manufacturing has been an example of how to respond to globalisation. It's ridiculous that they are being hampered by the sort of 19th century practices that Marx banged on about.

  • by Enry (630) <`enry' `at' `wayga.net'> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:42AM (#4069595) Journal
    Does this mean that MSFT still gets their piece of silver (aka license) for a FreeDOS machine?
  • by gosand (234100) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:43AM (#4069600)
    Well, if they are going to charge the same amount of money as if I had bought Windows installed, I would rather get the system with Windows. Why? For fun.

    I would then proceed to install Linux the first day I got the computer, without ever booting up Windows, and ask for a refund for the software. Others have done it. [linuxmall.com] If they are going to charge me the same amount, then why not prove a point? Worst case, you don't get your refund, which you wouldn't have gotten anyway, but maybe you can get the point across. Best case, you get your point across and maybe get a few bucks for your trouble.

    Not the easiest solution, but it kind of sounds like fun.

  • by jcn (55250) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:44AM (#4069612) Homepage Journal
    N-series PCs will cost the same as PCs that ship with Windows, a Dell representative said.

    But who gets the money that is saved by not shipping Windows? Is any money saved at all? Previous incarnations of this sort of deal had the manufacturer pay Microsoft for a Windows license anyway.

    I think it's a big deal whether you are sponsoring DELL for taking on Microsoft, or are actually making some sort of implicit mandatory donation to Microsoft, just to be spared from the horrors of running Windows.

  • Spyglass revenge. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dinotrac (18304) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:01AM (#4069721) Journal
    If this flies, ya gotta love it.
    Turnabout may not always be fair play, but sometimes it does justice.
    Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of folks.

    It was just this kind of "creative" contract interpretation that let Microsoft screw Spyglass pretty much out of existence.

    PS: I hear that Spyglass picked up a little justice of its own in the form of a lawsuit settlement. Seems Microsoft told the Court some things in the antitrust trial that affected the way the Spyglass contract should be read. Guess they figured no one was paying attention.
  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:10AM (#4070212)
    I think the reason why Dell is offering machines without Windows installed is the fact Dell has announced an alliance with Red Hat Software to provide Red Hat Linux on both corporate PC's and servers on Tuesday.

    That way, Dell offers a low-cost alternative to Windows to satisfy increasingly penny-pinching large-volume customers, and Dell chose the Linux distribution that is #1 in the business environment, Red Hat (which has pretty much become the de facto standard for Linux distributions).
  • FreeDOS! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Eil (82413) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:12AM (#4070221) Homepage Journal

    Ha! Of all the systems they could have shipped, especially to include Linux and the *BSDs they picked FreeDOS. That's just funny. Okay, the dumb little Dell kid just got a slight bit more tolerable in my mind.

  • by Hooya (518216) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:42AM (#4070434) Homepage
    i believe that MS actually asked Dell to ship FreeDOS for one reason and one reason only.

    MS is in the middle of an antitrust trial the core of which is the accusation that MS strongarms OEMs with exclusive deals. Now wouldn't it be convinient for MS to demo the fact that an OEM could indeed *not have to* ship with MS OSs even with the existing licences with MS. Enter Dell and FreeDOS. Who is actually using FreeDOS (well i am but i don't think that's the norm.)? From a shippers perspective Linux/xBSD would have been a better choice because of the market share. If Dell truly wanted to provide alternative OSs for the benefit of consumers wouldn't they pick from the list of OSs that are higher up in market-share-ranked list? ie. since they ship the top ranked OS -- windows -- woulnd't they pick the second next? But then MS wouldn't like that too much now would it? Solution: ship FreeDOS with the machines -- that way people are at least still in the DOS mindset. Then MS goes back to court saying -- "Look, Look, the OEMs can and are shipping machines with other OSs. We didn't strongarm them into exclusivity!! The OEMs *can* choose other OSs and that's not restricted by our *existing* license. The only reason they haven't taken advantage of that is because they didn't want to. Not because we threatened them in any way!"

    So me thinks this idea hatched somewhere in the northwest US. NOT at Dell. Do you really think that if Dell wanted to piss off MS by shipping an alternative OS they would ship FreeDOS as opposed to something with more demand -- linux? Unless of course MS wanted Dell to *ship* (or at least look like they offer) another OS. That OS would have to be close to MSs own. But very very outdated version of MSs own.

  • by sendai-X (572884) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @01:09PM (#4070977)
    I recently went through this issue with Dell when I bought a laptop from them about a month ago. Dell would not sell me a laptop with Linux unless I bought 10 or more. They would also not sell me a laptop with out an OS. However this is not a Microsoft licensing thing. In fact it is a requirement of the Interational Standards Organization. Dell does not actually build their machines but has a group of companies contraced to do it. As part of this, Dell requires their contactors to be certified under an ISO Manufacturing Standard (I dont know the number). This Manufacturing Standard states that Dell may not sell a computer without an OS. The guy explained to me that this is a requirement as they must quality inspect each machine with an installed OS and then send that machine out in its current state. I hate MicroBorg as much as the next guy, but this time they are in the clear.
  • by Dr. Awktagon (233360) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @01:27PM (#4071086) Homepage

    Well okay so maybe the tail is 100 times the size of the dog, but it's still bizarre to read things like this:

    The Microsoft licensing terms...specify that PC makers must ship PCs with an operating system.

    I think it's safe to say that the concept of a "software license" is completely out of hand when a software license can dictate another company's product line.

    Another strangely funny quote:

    Dell's approach has been to sell customers what they want.

    What a crazy idea! Who are these "Dell" people? They should sell customers what DELL wants! And lobby for laws that disallow everything else! That's the New Capitalism! Get with the program!

    Hmm then again I guess you could parse that sentence so that "they" could refer to Microsoft..

  • Must buy PC (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @02:17PM (#4071422) Homepage Journal
    Dell wouldn't sell me FreeDOS unless I bought a PC also! Thus I have to pay for a PC just to get FreeDOS from them. Those Bastards!

Everything that can be invented has been invented. -- Charles Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899

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