First look at Dell’s Ubuntu boxes

Dell and Linux: Made for each other?

No we don’t have one — they’re not available in Australia remember — but now they’re on sale a chap in the States on the Ubuntu forums has nabbed one given it a good once over. If you don’t frequent the forums read on for our take on what’s in the kit and what it could mean if the machines ever make it to our shores.

Surfing the Ubuntu forums (what doesn’t everybody?) revealed a great summary of one of the new Dell Ubuntu systems by on one benanzo here.

The hardware specs are reasonable (considering it’s an XPS) but what’s more interesting is whether Dell bundled Ubuntu as-is or tailored the distribution for its kit.

Well the first issue benanzo encountered was an incorrect display resolution. Now where have we heard that before? At least however the default resolution of his monitor was available in the screen resolution dialog and to be clear this is an issue with Ubuntu and not Dell.

The kernel version as reported is actually one point release newer (and current) than the one shipped with Ubuntu 7.04 so obviously Dell has done at least one update for the OS image over the 7.04 release.

One cool feature is the recovery mode which understandably pulls from a full Ubuntu image stored on a FAT32 partition. Nice touch and congruent with other recovery systems from Dell.

But above all else the most awesome feature of all in benanzo’s breakdown: no pre-installed crapware. Awww poor Linux can’t run all that sponsored tripe Dell sells its customers down the river for!

All up it sounds you get exactly what you pay for which is nice — a Dell system with Ubuntu pre-installed. But that’s the most pertinent point of all — just how much do you save going for an Ubuntu machine over a Windows one?

Again the systems aren’t available yet so here’s a quick summary of US prices of machines with the same hardware (both machines were configured identically in the product configuration dialogs):

Dell XPS 410 — Vista Home Premium — $US1199 ($US1398 with Ultimate)
Dell XPS 410n — Ubuntu 7.04 — $US1099

That’s a difference of $US100 for Home Premium or $US299 for Ultimate. Not a bad saving especially in comparison to Ultimate — one fifth of the price shaved off. Money in the tin or to be spent on more powerful hardware you wouldn’t be able to afford with the Windows box. Of course even with Dell’s buying power the exorbitant pricing of Vista by Microsoft in Australia would see an even greater difference for Australian customers were the machines on sale here making them an even more compelling sale.

Because lets be clear here — the biggest selling point for the Ubuntu machines isn’t Ubuntu itself it’s how much you as a new PC buyer can save. When Joe Blow asks ‘Oohh it’s cheaper but does it do everything Windows does?’ the answer is ‘Bar playing games yes’ and so who wouldn’t go for it? Invariably cheap always wins in the mass market and with the all the bad rap Vista has garnered this could be a further kick in the nether regions of Vista adoption for Microsoft.

Assuming that is the machines are promoted well and people are made aware — for now you have to squint on Dell’s main product page to find the new Ubuntu PCs. Take a look on the left hand side under Essential Links — ‘Open-Source PCs’. You can’t choose Ubuntu as your OS through the main product dialogs when selecting a machine Windows is the only option — this is to be sure piss poor: You’ve made the decision to go with it Dell you’re either behind it or you’re not. Why hide it in a sidebar? Surely as the latest innovation from Dell it should plastered all over the front page. What’s that saying about lights and bushels? 🙂