21 March 2007

Dell takes baby steps toward Linux

"Thanks to Dell, soon it will be easier than ever to order a brand-new desktop or notebook PC with Linux pre-installed. But whether Dell's new program will really have an impact on the rate of Linux adoption in the enterprise is unclear at best.

No matter how mature desktop Linux has become, it remains a niche product. It has gained a significant following among the developer community, academia, and the sciences, but in the business world its strongest market lies in such high-volume applications as call-center automation. These customers mainly intend to run Web-based applications and a handful of desktop tools. What they want most from their Linux installations is not versatility and choice, but homogeneity and reliability.

The sooner manufacturers such as Dell recognize this, the better. It should be clear by now that OS competition is in the long-term best interests of their customers, but too much choice has a way of becoming no choice at all. Dell should partner with a major desktop Linux supplier -- Novell, perhaps -- and deliver a single, highly functional, fully supported Linux desktop PC platform targeted at the enterprise market. The enthusiast market will always be willing to install their own, custom-tailored copies of Linux, no matter how much they may grumble. If Dell really wants to kick-start an industry, however, instead of wading tentatively into the Linux market, the best way to make a splash would be to dive in with both feet."

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