It’s coming up on one year since Dell started selling computers that are preinstalled with Ubuntu Linux. Towards the end of last year some stats started rolling in saying that Dell had only sold 40,000 Ubuntu machines, which equates to about 220 units per day. That’s not too shabby considering the only form of advertising for the Dell Ubuntu machines is by word of mouth.
An estimated 1 in 500 machines that they sell are running Ubuntu, and it’s left some people wondering whether that would be good enough for Dell. Well, I think it is. In December 2007 they upgraded the version of Ubuntu that they ship with their machines so that it includes DVD-playback out-of-the-box. And then earlier this year they added the high-end XPS M1330 laptop to the Ubuntu lineup.
Really the only bad thing that I’ve heard about Dell offering the Ubuntu laptops is the pricing. Naturally you would expect them to be cheaper because it comes with an open source operating system, but that’s not always the case. When comparing stock configurations of the XPS M1330 you can save about $50 by choosing the Ubuntu-powered version versus the Windows one, but the price difference really starts to shine through in more advanced configurations. The Windows version has four different pre-configured models available, and most of them offer significant savings (up to $600 off) over customizing the stock model to a similar set of hardware. Those kind of savings are not available in the Ubuntu configurations.
I’m sure Dell could give the Ubuntu sales even more of a bump if they looked into methods of marketing it, but it seems as though Linux doesn’t fare well with the general consumer as we saw with Wal-Mart and the gPC. It’s got to be confusing for people who purchase the computers thinking that they can install all of their favorite Windows applications, but find out the hard way that it doesn’t work like that. Hopefully with Dell’s help Ubuntu can become a little more mainstream.