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Dell denounces desktop Linux dealer

Questar's announcement 'inaccurate'

Dell today distanced itself from system builder Questar's announcement yesterday that it is offering Linux-based Dell-manufactured desktop systems - and doing so with the PC giant's approval.

It also branded elements of Questar's announcement - issued, it says, "without Dell input" - as "inaccurate".

"Our agreement with Dell allows our customers to purchase high-quality Linux computers with an exceptional Dell service warranty," David Orban, Questar's CEO, said yesterday. "By joining forces, we're both able to forge new commercial frontiers in Europe and offer top-value Linux solutions and support to our customers."

Err... not quite, says Dell. Questar is simply buying Optiplex 170L desktops from Dell as might any other business or individual customer. Is there any thing more to their "agreement" than that? No, Dell told The Register today: "Questar is a direct Dell customer and that is the extent of the relationship."

To be fair to Questar, it didn't claim that the relationship with Dell was unique, although Dell seems to feel that's how folks will read the release. Which is why it is telling us of its partnerships with a variety of European VARs which likewise buy Dell kit direct and then chuck in their own software and hardware.

Been there. Done that

Dell is also a bit miffed that Questar is installing Lindows' Linspire 4.5 distro. This news cannot have gone down very well with long-term Microsoft. And besides, Dell already has a preferred Linux distro - Red Hat.

Dell offers Linux on a number of systems, but not the Optiplex 170L, as we noted yesterday. Corporates can order workstations and servers with Red Hat pre-installed, and Dell has let them do so for some time, it tells us. It has also sold desktop PCs with Linux pre-installed, so it's irate over Questar's "inaccurate" claim that the new bundles represent the first time Dell has done so.

"Dell today introduced its first line of Linux-based desktop computers in Europe," Questar said in its press release. Dell certainly offered Linux desktops in the US. The question is, did Dell's Linux desktops circa 2000 ship over here? Dell says they were.

"Dell sold Linux-based desktop systems in 2000," writes Dell today. "Dell continues to offer Dell Precision workstations and PowerEdge servers with Red Hat Linux factory installed around the world." You'll note that Dell doesn't say it sold Linux-based desktops in 2000 in Europe, even though it stresses that it does sell Linux-based workstations and servers here now.

In fact, Dell's dalliance with the open source OS on the desktop goes back at least as far as 1998, when it was quietly offering Linux to anyone willing to buy more than 50 PCs a quarter. Again, it's not clear today if that offer was ever made to European buyers. Either way, it stopped selling Linux desktops in 2001.

More importantly for buyers, Dell says it will not support Questar's choice of OS, despite the system builder's lauding of the "exceptional" Dell Gold Tech Support bundled with each machine. Dell presumably will support the hardware. ®


The announcement caused others trouble too. US news agency Associated Press mistakenly attributed the deal to Questar Corp., a $4bn Utah-based natural gas company, before acknowledging that the Questar behind the press release was another company altogether. Whoops.

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