The Linux-OEM complaint- Learn from Ubuntu.

One of the excuses that is always advanced for the relative unpopularity of the Linux OS is that MS has locked in the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to only ship their units with Windows. And so you hear people complain about how bad such a practice is and how it is harming Linux.
In as much as I detest the use of market monopolistic powers to tie down the hands of someone, I disagree with that excuse about the OEMs not willing to ship Linux boxes en mass because of Windows. The point of all this is that the OEMs are first of all out there to make profits. They are not philanthropists. They have shareholders to answer to at the end of a certain period. If you were a shareholder in any of these OEMs, which would you like to see them ship, Linux or Windows?
With all these in mind, the OEMs will only do what will spur them on to maximize profitability. If shipping their units with Windows is what will make them profitable, they will do it. The OEMs are not sentimentalists, neither will they ship units with Linux because it is Open Source or that it is free.  They will ship their units with only what the market wants. And as things are, the market seems to be happy with Windows and so they ship with Windows.
Using Ubuntu as the case study, we now have big shot OEMs like Dell and IBM beginning to ship units with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled. What is very clear from this development is that they are not shipping Ubuntu boxes because they believe in the Ubuntu philosophies or that because they think it is cool. They are shipping Ubuntu because there is now a nascent market for Ubuntu and hence some profit to be made.
The point I am trying to make is that I think the sentimentalism in the world of Open Source especially Linux is just beginning to get out of hand. If Linux in general is to be taken seriously, as Ubuntu is now being taken, more work has to be done to make Linux even more usable than it is now. It is not enough to sit back and blame everything on MS. Linux is good, but it has a long way to go to be known in the ‘real world.’
The Linux kernel was there for fifteen years, but it was not until the advent of Ubuntu that the masses got to know there is something called Linux. Ubuntu has so far done a good job of making Linux for the masses and is now being rewarded by having it shipped in the units of OEMs who hitherto had been happy to stick with MS Windows. So if next time you think of advancing the Linux OEM complaint, know that they will not ship Linux in this world ever until there is a readily identifiable market for Linux. Look and learn from Ubuntu.
I know you disagree with me. So just fire your disagreement to me  in the comments.

8 Replies to “The Linux-OEM complaint- Learn from Ubuntu.”

  1. Personally, I have a problem with pre-installed Linux. I'm not a fan of Ubuntu, so that's not the distro I want. I know I can wipe anything off and install what I want, but when MS Windows is subsidized, it's cheaper to get that and wipe it than get a pre-installed Ubuntu machine. If anyone hasn't noticed, sames specs, Dell actually charges more for Ubuntu machines.

  2. I still have to believe that support is part of it. When an OEM ships Windows and other software on their hardware, they're effectively saying, "This works. We know this works, and we're prepared to back up that statement. And if you get our equipment and find there's an issue, we'll provide you support in fixing it."

    That's a lot easier to do when you're shipping your computers with pre-installed software that comes from a company whose business model includes paid support. Plus there's that whole fact that they've probably worked with you to develop an in-factory test suite to ensure that each machine coming off the assembly line (1) works properly and (2) works properly with their software.

    Shipping your computers with software that's community supported with no formal tech support structure? Shipping your computers with software that doesn't come from a company that has provided or helped you develop a test suite to verify that every machine off the assembly line is happily compatible with and able to run that software? That's a bit more risky. Because when your customer calls saying they have an issue your choices are to help them solve the problem yourself, tell them to go to the community that develops the software, or try to work with that community yourself — remembering that no one in that community is under no contractual obligation to help you drive your customer's problem to a resolution ASAP no matter what.

    I'm curious how Dell and IBM chose to address that issue when they decided to start shipping computers with Ubuntu.

  3. "If you were a shareholder in any of these OEMs, which would you like to see them ship, Linux or Windows?"

    I would sell BOTH. Give the customer choice and make money from both. System76 reported +60% gains in one year. ZaReason also increased its profits significantly. It is clear that customers demanding Linux is on the increase. I would not let other companies rip the benefits all by themselves, unless MS threatened me it would increase the OEM price for me only.

    In that case I would create a new company that would only sell PCs with pre-installed Linux, so MS couldn't put pressure to it, while my original company keeps selling with windows…:)

  4. Hi Ruel
    I also noticed this just yesterday that there was some price distortions between a preinstall box of the two OSs. However, I think the Windows box is cheaper because there is demand for it and the OEMs need to do less work to get them sold than they would for Linux.

    Jarred, you know you hit it right on spot. The OEMs will not take you seriously if you have to point to users to head to the forums for support. They want ready made commercial support and Ubuntu provides that. I am yet to see that kind of support on the part of the other Linux desktop distros though. Also I think Dell and IBM have done a lot of testing and experimenting to have come to the agreement they did. You Ubuntu now has paid support available so that may also have been a factor.

    I would not want to see my company ship units with OSs that have less than 5% of the overall desktop market even if there is some demand for it, especially if the mention of just the name of that OS causes panic in the hearts of the remaining 95%. I can confidently say to you that System76 and Zareeason are shipping Ubuntu boxes, and Ubuntu is by far the most successful of the Linux desktop distros and as such has some really good user base. As I pointed out, it has worked to craft out a nascent market that these OEMs are now exploiting. What I am wondering is if these OEMs had decided to ship their units with say Arch Linux, what would have been the market reaction?

  5. Companies are struggling to reduce the fall of their profits, so a new source of income should be welcome. Anyway, I am not any OEM's shareholder, so who cares…
    They can all leave System76 and ZaReason grow 60% per year and become 2 huge enterrise success stories:)
    Everyone will see their mistake then.

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