Posted by Calixte Pictet | 4 comments
Why This Ubuntu Fan Roots for Apple
The news for Linux fans–particularly the Ubuntu group–was a bit dark. OMG! Ubuntu!, a popular blog that focuses on that particular distribution gloomily displayed the headline:
Dell reassures it’s Linux users by telling them that “this is not a permanent decision, and Dell remains committed to offering Ubuntu,” but most people are not convinced. This decision reaffirms the lack of commitement that Dell has for its Ubuntu offering.
Removing Ubuntu computers from the Dell website is not a decision that has much impact to tell the truth, neither for Dell or even for Ubuntu. Nobody bought Dell computers with Ubuntu pre-installed apparently.
The Dell spokesperson [...] suggested Ubuntu is failing to win over the public. “The reason why they’re not on our main pages is because Ubuntu systems are primarily targeted towards advanced users and enthusiasts, and the vast majority of consumers purchase PCs with Microsoft Windows pre-installed,” reads PC Pro’s article.
This, according to me, is the stupidest thing we’ve heard from a PC OEM’s spokesperson for a long time. Of course most consumers buy Windows machines, and of course only Ubuntu enthusiasts buy Ubuntu. Most people don’t even know there is an alternative.
If it surprised Dell that nobody would magically convert to Dell’s Ubuntu machines by magically finding the Dell Linux website (which you can’t find unless you know it exists), they have a serious problem. I’m sure that Dell knew that if you want to sell a product to someone that knows nothing about it, you must advertise it.
I’m not going to hate Dell for that. After all, why should they advertise Linux when they have no compelling reason to do so. Linux is not their operating system and, as a business, they won’t spend money when there’s no return. My grudge on Dell comes from another source.
Several months ago, I wanted to buy a new computer. I don’t need Windows, so I started looking for a vendor that would sell me a machine without Microsoft’s OS pre-installed. For me, buying a Windows machine equates to a couple of hundred dollars going down the drain. Fortunately for me (or so I thought) I remembered that Dell–one of the world’s top PC brands–sold a few boxes pre-loaded with my favorite OS. I happily typed “dell.com” in my browser, the address where I thought I could fin those machines. After ten minutes of fruitless search in the overly complex website, I found that the only mention of any OS was the “Dell Recommends Windows 7″ near the top of every page.
With a quick Google search, I discovered that Ubuntu machines were sold separately, on another website specifically built for Linux lovers. That’s when I got it: Dell is not selling Linux loaded on computers for the general public, Dell is selling Linux for people who already know they want it. Fair enough, I want Linux. Checking the offers was both quick and disappointing. Six months ago, there were only a few machines preloaded with Ubuntu, all with mediocre specs. Now there was only one: a netbook running UNR. I have nothing against the netbook remix, on the contrary. It’s been my primary OS for a while. But I already have a netbook, and the overpriced Dell offering could do nothing to attract me. There it was: nothing.
Thinking I was doing something wrong, I went back to the main website and selected the tower that interested me most (a high-end XPS). I clicked “customize” and ran though the options until I reached the OS selection. Ah, there it is!
But if you believe all I would have to do is select the radio button next to the “Ubuntu” entry, you will be disappointed: there wasn’t any. In fact, there was no way to even change the version of Windows they were proposing!
I moved away from my screen, head down and seriously pissed off. I had spent almost two hours trying with all my heart to buy a product that did not exist. A product that was so easy to offer.
Now I have a question to ask to Dell. If Ubuntu is only for the Linux enthusiasts, why would anybody buy your Ubuntu netbooks? Don’t you know that “Linux enthusiasts” can install an OS by themselves?
Micheal Dell, the founder and CEO of the company, reportedly used Ubuntu on one of his machines and one Dell spokesman told us that Linux is the superior operating system (as if anyone doubted that). Did they just say so because they kew that only Linux users would hear it anyway? If they did, they’re playing a very low game. If they didn’t, they have to explain their Linux strategy.
Ubuntu’s goal is to go beyond the realm of Linux enthusiasts and to appeal to the general public, but nobody–and I really mean nobody–will ever buy a product that they have to search for actively and that they have never heard about. When Apple started it’s renaissance, it advertised its OS aggressively. Even until recently, it told people why they would like to “be a Mac” instead of a “PC.” Most people understand the difference now, or rather think they do, because Apple spend time and money to inform them. Most people have no clue what Ubuntu is.
I really believe that Dell, or any other company, could encounter a big success if they sold–and advertised–Ubuntu. Better yet, they could differentiate themselves by creating their own, unique Linux Distribution. It’s not that hard (literally anyone could do it) and it would make them stand out much like Apple does nowadays. They’d already have the apps, a community appearing almost automatically that’s ready to help, and millions of tools at their disposal. All they’d have to do then is advertise their OS, much like this:
OMG! Ubuntu! describes the video as “a stunning few minutes of Ubuntu-filled win”. Oh wait, is that a Dell ad? Why hasn’t anybody seen it (apart from people that read OMG! Ubuntu! that is)?
To me, there can be only one reason: courage. Betting on anything that’s not already been proven requires some intelligence and a lot of courage. As of now, the only company who has these two characteristics is Apple. However much I dislike their products, their strategy and their fanboys, this company deserves its reputation. My heart is with them and their proprietary OS, however much they differ from my ideals. Until someone has the guts to stand up to them, I’ll just stand, watch, and laugh. I have no friendship for Dell, even if it continues to sell Ubuntu computers. Its lack of commitment makes them useless to Ubuntu and Ubuntu useless to them.
I’m not sure that Dell is realizing what they are missing.
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