Dell has published an open letter to its Linux customers 'clarifying' its position as regards the insurgent OS. Actually, the letter is headed "Clarifying Dell and Linux", but either of these would be a massive task, and we think we know what they meant to say. In any event, the letter reads like it's an apologia from a company that has been taking heavy fire from mullahs... er... enthusiasts and is making a desperate but futile effort to salvage its position.
Weirdly, the letter has banners saying "Linux is everywhere" above and below, whereas it not being everywhere is the problem that caused the outrage that caused the letter. Dell pulled the plugs on Linux preinstalls on desktops and notebooks back in August, citing lack of demand. The Register has no experience of buying from Dell, but our experience a little earlier this year over an IBM ThinkPad gave us an indication of how "lack of demand" works in the PC business. We asked for one with with Linux on-board, and the vendor said he'd check availability. We asked him to check availability on the Win2k version at the same time.
When he got back to us it was three weeks for the Linux machine, the Win2k one we could have tomorrow. So guess which we bought? This is how lack of demand builds up in the Windows world.
But back to the letter. "Dell continues [Memo to marketing: stress continuity of Dell Linux offering] to support Linux customers on a variety of client and server products [make it sound like a lot] both through factory installation and Linux vendor certification [lob it back into Red Hat's lap]. Dell offers the latest release of Red Hat® Linux 7.2 on its Precision Workstation and PowerEdge Server lines to customers who range from corporate professionals to performance computing enthusiasts [don't mention home users] through multiple ordering mechanisms, including over the internet. For customers who develop their own Linux image using Red Hat or another Linux distribution, Dell will install their image on OptiPlex desktop and Latitude portable computers through Dell's custom factory integration services [don't piss off the big customers who want Linux]. In addition, Dell has Linux available across its other product lines (Dimension and Inspiron) through DellWare to support the many Linux user's who are installing the operating system themselves [lob it back to the users]."
Our itals and annotations throughout, naturally. Amazingly, this whinge from Dell in no way contradicts a posting we've just noted from the Cleveland Linux User Group, made at the time Dell pulled the plugs:
"I'm pissed off. I just tried to order a workstation from Dell's 'Home' division and I don't have the choice to have Linux installed on it. Last year, when I ordered a box, I was able to get RedHat with it. This was good. It meant that I wasn't forced to by a license for MS software that I wouldn't need or use. Now, Dell has removed that choice. I do NOT have the choice of ordering a system unless it comes with Windows, which means I have to line Microsoft's pockets despite the fact that Windows will never run on this PC."
So there. Even if you were feeble-minded enough to believe Dell's protestations through most of the letter, you might well change your mind (we use the term advisedly) when you get to the bottom. "Dell believes that Linux enables an excellent migration platform for customers with applications previously restricted to proprietary Unix platforms, such as workstation and internet applications. As such, Dell will continue to support Linux as outlined above."
So there you go. It's not an alternative to Windows at all, it's a "migration platform" for customers who need to get their apps away from "proprietary Unix platforms." All it needs is for Dell to precede it with "And now for a word from our sponsors." ®