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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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  • by lar3ry (10905) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:15AM (#4069348)
    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...!
  • 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.

  • by rknop (240417) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:17AM (#4069380) Homepage

    Why not FreeDOS? It doesn't matter. It's just a token.

    How much space does FreeDOS take? Perhaps only one CD, or less?

    It's pretty clear that Dell does not expect anybody (or much of anybody) to actuall install the included FreeDOS. The FreeDOS is just a maneuver to get around a loophole in Microsoft's licencing agreement. Now they can say, hey, we included an OS, we're abiding by their terms. What they're really doing is selling an OS-less PC, plus an extra CD that adds very little to their costs and might even be useful to a tiny fraction of their customers.

    (Heck, I'd rather get a FreeDOS PC than the useless Windows driver disks I get with every piece of hardware I buy. Even when I've installed the drivers on my wife's Windows box so that she can use the printers over the network, I discover they're broken and I have to get updated drivers from the web anyway.)

    -Rob

  • 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) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:20AM (#4069400)
    How can a computer with a free operating system cost the same price as that same computer with Windows? Am I missing something here?
  • by friedmud (512466) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:22AM (#4069425)
    The reason they dont cost less is you are STILL PAYING for windows - and Dell still pays microsoft for that computer!

    I kid you not! This is just Dell trying to get back into our good graces. It is all a PR stunt - "Look we don't like M$ either!!!!" as they hand MS money under the table.

    Don't take this as a win for all of us alternative OS people. M$ is still getting their cash in spite of being found a monopoly.

    Derek
  • FreeDOS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kaden (535652) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:22AM (#4069427)
    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.

  • 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 Winterblink (575267) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:28AM (#4069504) Homepage
    If you want a PC without Windows on it, your best bet is still Walmart

    Or 1) buy a clone with nothing on it, 2) build one yourself.

  • 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.

  • my order from Dell (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SysadminFromHell (535868) <yvanNO@SPAMsanctamaria-aarschot.be> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:47AM (#4069639) Homepage
    I recently ordered 35 Optiplex pc's from Dell, without operating system. Just today, I got an email from Dell, stating I must confirm by email that I already have sufficient licenses. They are apparently not allowed by Microsoft to sell pc's without OS unless they get this email from me.

    Of course this is all wrong. It's not microsoft's task to make companies check every license. I should not be obligated to tell anyone what I will run on my pc's before I am allowed to buy them.

  • by Winterblink (575267) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:24AM (#4069856) Homepage
    It may be a small step, but a it's a step nonetheless. It pains me to read the comments here beating down Dell even though they're at least attempting to make a go at satisfying the requests of customers who don't want Windows on their machine. I mean seriously, what do these /.ers want from Dell? For them to totally drop MS, overhaul their service and support division and sell blank or Linux installed PCs only? They're not going to do that, and the truth of it is that such a move would kill them.

    What I would like to see them do is (as was suggested by another reader) partner up with a big Linux company to provide service and support for the OS, and for Dell to seriously provide alternate desktop and server solutions for the general public as well as business buyers. Maybe this first step is a move in that direction? A test perhaps, to see how viable such a product line would be to their business.

    Should we be slagging them, or buying their products to send them a message? Feel free to comment (no flames, decent conversation please)

    As a personal sidebar, I own two machines at home. A (relatively) new Dell with WinXP, and another older PC with Redhat. Small steps for me too. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:26AM (#4069867)
    on the frontpage of slashdot, hit your pagedown key twice, then pageup then pagedown, thenpageup, then pagedown, really quickly...

    be amazed as you watch Bill borg morph into tux in a business suit with a briefcase....

    fun for the whole family!
  • Great News! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PMadavi (583271) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:28AM (#4069882)
    This is fantastic news. Now, I'd imagine that most people who buy a PC from dell probably won't be installing linux anyway. If you know how to install/operate linux, then you're probably building your own PC, for a whole lot cheaper than dell can get you one.

    So why am I saying that this is great news? When's the last time win2kpro, xppro, linux, or other OS's where an option on a home PC? Moreover, when's the last time an PC came with just an OS. Who the hell wants AOL, Jukebox, Compaq management station, Jacknutz McGee's antiviral sponge program, and all other kinds of useless crap that they never asked for in the first place on their PC? This is good news for the average Joe schmoo who can finally get a computer and put what they want on it without having to know too much about computers in general.

    It's a big step back from M$ dictating what average folk do with their PC's, and I dig it.

  • by renehollan (138013) <rhollan@@@clearwire...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 Spencerian (465343) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:21AM (#4070279) Homepage Journal
    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 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 _Knots (165356) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @12:42PM (#4070809)
    What's stopping them from doing that *too*? A live-CD demo could easily be tucked among the countless other bundled products.

    I think the issue, as others have said, is that they don't want to support Linux in addition to Windows (MSFT does require them to do that, remember).

    Maybe they should contract out support to RHAT.

    --Knots;
  • by weycrest (170770) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @01:17PM (#4071026) Homepage
    This is my recent experience with Dell UK:

    Hi

    I have purchased 2 Dells from you in the past and now wish to purchase
    several of the above machines, but I
    wish to order it without a Microsoft Operating System

    I will be installing Red Hat Linux 7.3, so I do not want to be forced to
    buy a copy of MS Windows which I
    don't need.

    Is it still possible to buy a dell desktop in the UK without Window
    pre-installed?

    Hi Paul,

    Please note that all Dell machines have to be built with a Microsoft
    Operating system as we test and validate them in the factory with the
    operating system.

    Hi Paul,

    In relation to your below e-mail, if you buy the machine from Dell, and
    proceed to take the Operating system off your machine and put another
    operating sytem on the machine, you will lose your warranty as we will only
    support what we supply. In relation to obtaining a refund from Microsoft,
    we would not be able to help you on that, as you would have to deal with
    Microsoft on that, and Dell could not advise you whether you could get a
    refund or not.

    Kind Regards
    Dell Outlet

    SO as far as UK Dell are concerned no refund on the OS licence and removing Windows will invalidate the warranty
  • 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..

  • by coupland (160334) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [esahcd]> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:24PM (#4073979) Journal

    Ok, lemme try summing up my opinion succintly and see if you still disagree, I suspect this is just an argument of semantics. This is what I'm trying to say:

    "Microsoft should not force OEMs to sell a copy of Windows with every PC they sell, but even though it does not hold true in all situations, there is some logic to them thinking that you should ship something with the PC since otherwise you could very well be planning to pirate a copy of Windows."

    Pay special note to the fact that I say that it does not hold true in all situations but really, you have to concede this. We all know tonnes of cut-rate PC shops are selling systems without Windows licenses or that people are buying a blank hard drive then downloading a Windows ISO off of a newsgroup. Surely you're not trying to deny this! If so you must also believe that no one ever downloaded a song illegally using Napster.

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