Dell's Ubuntu Boxes Shed Light On The Windows Tax

from the what-would-you-do-with-$50? dept

Not only has Vista not fueled a boom in PC sales, but as computer prices have come down, there's been a lot of talk about the "Windows tax", the growing share of a computer's cost that just goes to Microsoft. As the Windows tax has grown, there's been a rise in crapware (to help offset the tax) and interest in Windows alternatives, like desktop Linux. This week Dell announced details of its desktop Linux plan, including the price at which it would sell computers with a preinstalled version of Ubuntu Linux. As it turns out, computers loaded with Ubuntu will be about $50 cheaper than a Windows computer with the same hardware configuration, which is probably in the ballpark of what Dell pays Microsoft for a copy of Windows. As for whether a $50 Windows tax will push consumers to seek alternatives, it probably depends on other factors. On higher-end machines, it's unlikely that this would affect which operating system a consumer wants. But at the low end, it could be enough to get people interested in other options.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Nick (profile), May 25th, 2007 @ 1:09pm

    It is possible that this fee is even higher because crapware helps bring down the cost of the PCs. The crapware vendors pay Dell to put the crapware on their PCs. I am surprised the cost of the Linux Dell PCs is not higher because of this. Maybe there is Linux crapware on these Dells?

     

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  2.  
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    Healthy Sceptic (profile), May 25th, 2007 @ 1:13pm

    Sounds like Dell is just doing it half heartedly.

    $50 bucks difference is crap. Dell, I know has to pay more than that for Vista Home even with the volume discount. Sounds like Dell is just trying to play both ends against the middle and not anger M$ too much by pricing the Dells with Linux at the correct price.
    Then again they may be factoring in the cost of higher support costs for supporting it.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2007 @ 1:32pm

    They may also be counting in the fact that a linux comp doesnt get much crapware installed on it.

     

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  4.  
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    TacoJim, May 25th, 2007 @ 1:43pm

    Crapware

    We must not forget that crapware installations will go where the customer goes. Don't be surprised when crapware for linux starts bubbling to the surface. Follow the money folks!

     

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  5.  
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    Just Me, May 25th, 2007 @ 1:47pm

    About time a major player in the PC world has finally started to sell their products with a Linux distribution. I think this will encourage people to explore their options and hopefully, bring more users to the Linux world.

    As for windows tax cuts...well, I am sure that it costs more than $50.00...but, I am happy for Dell or any other PC seller to make some money distributing other OS alternatives to Windows.

    Yes, windows is more user friendly than Linux, but Linux is getting more and more user friendly recently...and has proven to be more secure than Windows :)

     

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  6.  
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    UniBoy, May 25th, 2007 @ 1:47pm

    Who cares?

    I think its great to just have options...even at an identical price.

    I don't use Windows, don't want to, and consider Ubuntu to be a pretty decent desktop OS. ESPECIALLY when someone else does the work to get all my hardware working correctly.

     

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  7.  
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    Cannen, May 25th, 2007 @ 1:50pm

    The good thing is...

    Even though the price only dropped $50, the OS will be pre-configured with drivers that will work with everything that is installed. If there aren't open-source drivers, closed source drivers will be made/used.

    The end result being that even though the cost savings aren't what people hoped for, the increase in visibility and usability of the systems will be improved. Linux geeks will be suggesting these new machines to family members and helping to increase the base.

    If a user buys one of these versions as a Windows computer, they will have Vista, the ability to put on Linux, and available drivers for Linux.

    Considering these things, the $50 drop doesn't mean as much. I don't really see a down side actually.

     

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  8.  
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    Haapi, May 25th, 2007 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Sounds like Dell is just doing it half hearted

    Yeah, I'm sure Dell pays more for Windows, and this is a nicer margin for them at $50really less.

     

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  9.  
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    Haapi, May 25th, 2007 @ 2:02pm

    Re: The good thing is...

    What I'd like to see is some evidence that hardware decisions will start being made that are more linux-friendly.

    "I'm sorry Mr. Partvendor, we are no longer sourcing from you because your competitor's products work better for us with *all* the OS's we install."

     

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  10.  
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    COD, May 25th, 2007 @ 2:03pm

    I doubt Dell is doing the support for these boxes. That is almost certainly outsourced to Canonical. Also, I don't think the consumer for these is noobs trying Linux for the first time. I think it's geeks that would otherwise install Linux themselves and fight through all the driver issues. When my wife's 6 year old XP box finally dies she will getting Ubuntu, and if Dell is still doing this then, I won't hesitate to buy it from them and save myself the hassle of installing and configuring an OS.

     

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  11.  
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    jinx, May 25th, 2007 @ 2:20pm

    Mainstream users

    I think this is aimed at mainstream value shoppers. Geeks don't want Linux preinstalled, unless it is for someone else. Half the fun is getting your box up, running, and tweaked just the way you like. Hope this has some commercial success.

     

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  12.  
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    Eric the Grey, May 25th, 2007 @ 2:27pm

    Wait and see.

    What I'm waiting to see is a review of a completed machine, as it reaches the consumer. I would like to know how much crapware they manage to stick on the Ubuntu box, Linux or not.

    That being said, it's great to see the option there. I spent some time last night, configuring a laptop that was way too expensive for me, Linux option or not. :) One of these days...


    EtG

     

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  13.  
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    raffytaffy, May 25th, 2007 @ 2:38pm

    Re:

    "linux crapware" ? are you kidding me? take your FUD elsewhere.

     

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  14.  
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    Limerat, May 25th, 2007 @ 2:59pm

    Re:

    As a Linux user for over a year,I find Linux to be just as easy to use as Windows.
    I honestly did not think Dell would offer any version of linux and was quite pleased to see the deed is now done.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2007 @ 3:25pm

    alt OS

    $50 is no diff, I would rather have the windows OS then anything else out there. Remember if it was not for windows we would not have the competing OS that are in the condition that they are in now. Windows wether you like it or not had improved all versions of OS because that have to compete so they need the functionality that windows offers. If windows was not here they would be very primitive if they existed at all.

     

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  16.  
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    Cixelsid, May 25th, 2007 @ 3:33pm

    Re: alt OS

    I guess Unix BSD and OS X mean jackshit to you.

     

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  17.  
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    byte^me, May 25th, 2007 @ 3:36pm

    Re:

    Actually, HP beat Dell to this a number of years ago. For a while, they were offering systems with Mandrake Linux installed. I don't think that option did well so they no longer offer it.

    However, they do now offer systems with FreeDOS instead of Windows for $160 less. Of course, on their business models, HP does not include as much Crapware as Dell and other "home PC" vendors.

    I guess that gives me yet another reason to stick with HP systems......

     

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  18.  
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    Hyphen, May 25th, 2007 @ 4:43pm

    Alt OS

    My opinion..... Get a MAC! I was pro windows for years as I am a systems admin for a government contractor. My other half was picking up spyware left and right regardless of the precautions I was taking. I bought my MAC a little over a year ago, and guess what? No problems with spyware...... All kinds of free tools, and a student edition of MS Office is CHEAP!

     

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  19.  
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    glitch, May 25th, 2007 @ 4:44pm

    # 15

    I used a GUI all the way back with Commodore..it was called GEOS, and it was ported over to these clones. I had them all, GEOS, Geoworks Pro and Geoworks Ensamble. It blew Windows away. It quit working at either DOS 5 or DOS 6.

    And there were other GUI's that blew Windows away. DOS was an OS, and there were other choices even for that then. PC DOS and DR DOS are the 2 i used. DOS was an OS, windows wasn't.

    I don't consider Windows and OS. It hasn't been since Microsoft bundled DOS into its GUI. Windows is more an "operating platform".

    I do agree that $50 is no big deal. I build my own computers, have been since 1985. However, I have yet to find a copy of Vista for even $50, it is more like $100+.

    I recently got Ubuntu & Kbuntu, 32 & 64 bit versions for FREE. I didnt even have to pay shipping. I have been using Open Office since it started out as Star Office.

    I have used Windows since it firat came out. I opted for GEOS until it quit working and have followed the greenback road all the way. I even beta tested Vista. But I am no longer following that path. Linux, thru the *buntu releases
    will do me just fine. I understanbd that Linux is not for everyone, but then, that is THEIR loss.

     

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  20.  
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    aquaadverse, May 25th, 2007 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Re:HP

    Dell used to offer Red Hat as far back as 1998. Dell also doesn't put crapware on their business line. I'm still pissed at HP for screwing up Compaqs server line. Oh: http://www.dell.com/content/topics/segtopic.aspx/e510_nseries?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=d hs

     

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  21.  
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    Charles Griswold, May 25th, 2007 @ 9:30pm

    Re: Crapware

    We must not forget that crapware installations will go where the customer goes. Don't be surprised when crapware for linux starts bubbling to the surface.
    I read that and my chocolate breve curdled in my stomach. :-(

     

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  22.  
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    Charles Griswold, May 25th, 2007 @ 9:40pm

    Re: alt OS

    $50 is no diff, I would rather have the windows OS then anything else out there.
    Not a problem. You have that choice.

    Remember if it was not for windows we would not have the competing OS that are in the condition that they are in now. Windows wether you like it or not had improved all versions of OS because that have to compete so they need the functionality that windows offers. If windows was not here they would be very primitive if they existed at all.
    Eh, whatever. Linux (in my ever-so-humble opinion) beats the living crap out of Windows in every way imaginable (with the possible exception of playing the latest games). This is, of course, why I use Linux.

    I'm happy that Dell is offering a choice of pre-installed operating systems. I would be ecstatic if they offered BSD, Be, and maybe a couple of other Linux distros as well. Choice is good.

     

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  23.  
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    Paul, May 25th, 2007 @ 10:38pm

    Because Dell puts Crapware(tm) on a machine, you end up having to pay less.
    Because Dell cannot put Crapware(tm) on a Linux machine, you end up having to pay more.

    The $50 difference is actually the "Windows Tax" PLUS what you are not saving by getting Crapware(tm)

    So the real "Windows Tax" may only be $25, and it is possible that under normal circumstances you would also save $25 by getting Crapware(tm) installed.

    Perhaps Dell should start giving users the option to get Crapware(tm) preinstalled or not?

    Linux $0 (included in price)
    Windows +$50
    Windows w/Crapware(tm) +$25 (Dell Recommended!)

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2007 @ 10:56pm

    Re: alt OS

    FUD..... FUD....... Fud.......

    After moving through C-64/128, several Macs, and a few Windows systems over the years...........

    Just being back in the Amiga era of a bit over 15 years ago. I had really nice operating OS's that operated better than Windows does today.

    Those that only used Windows over the years, just don't realise that there were better OS's even years ago that handled and operated very well compared to Windows.

    I will long remember my shock at getting my first Windows system and the saleman handing me the copy of the OS with the words, 'You'll need this to re-install Windows'.........

    You see, that was never needed on any of the other OS's I had been using. The several and multiple upgrade versions OS's simply didn't self-destruct like Windows does......

    Oh sure I had heard about that......... I just didn't have to see it being needed fro the 17 years before then.

    That's something Windows needs to change in itself.......... It's been almost 30 years now. I wonder if Redmond will ever get that engineered into it's product.........

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2007 @ 8:11am

    Tow main complaint I noticed about the Linux offering was the (relatively small) price differential and the graphic card.

    First the graphics. Yes, Windows offers Intel 3000 compared to Intel 950 for the Linux boxes, but it costs exactly the same ($50) to upgrade to the Geoforce 7300 in either system. And while the Linux system does not offer the ATI, if you are interested in that level of graphics you're probably a gamer, and games are still one of the areas where Windows has the clear upper hand (for now) so you're likely better off sticking with the platform.

    Price. I didn't look at the other models, just the E520 (the kind most beginner and moderate users are likely to get), but the initial price difference is $80, not $50. Not counting the video card (unless you choose to upgrade to the Geoforce) the price for the other hardware (HD, processor, RAM) is identical, with ONE exception: the monitor.

    If you choose to forego the monitor in the Linux (Ubuntu) offering, you save $190 instead of $130. That's an additional $60, bringing the savings to $140. A lot of people don't really need another monitor in some cases, and those that do can generally find a much better deal for $190 than what Dell is offering for that price.

     

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  26.  
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    Dan, May 26th, 2007 @ 11:26am

    Considering the price of a video game is $50, no one and I repeat no one, is going to give a crap about a Linux alternative just for a monetary reason of $50. It will only make a difference to a select few. (Like those that read Techdirt, for instance) There are just too many different useful apps in the Windows and Mac world at this time.

    It's comparable to the problem with a new video game console. You can build a new console, but you need games to make it mainstream. And you need an installed hardware base to make game/app development worth while, a catch-22.

    In spite of what some like to think, mainstream home computing power rest on the ability of being able to go to Target, Best Buy, etc and buy your typical Linux application off the shelf or via the internet. That's not going to happen anytime soon.

    As the family computer geek I'm going to say, "Yes Linux is a much better operating system then Windows but you can't buy software for it."? Hardly a convincing argument.

    Business computing is the only place where it is even possible for Linux. Business doesn't change anything that isn't causing an immediate problem.

     

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  27.  
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    Charles Griswold, May 26th, 2007 @ 2:10pm

    Re:

    As the family computer geek I'm going to say, "Yes Linux is a much better operating system then Windows but you can't buy software for it."? Hardly a convincing argument.
    "Can't" buy software for Linux? I've never felt the need to buy Linux software, since Linux comes with tons of stuff that you normally have to pay extra for if you're running Windows.

    Besides which, a lot of games are coming with Linux binaries as well as Windows binaries.

     

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  28.  
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    Dan, May 26th, 2007 @ 11:19pm

    Re: Re:

    Besides which, a lot of games are coming with Linux binaries

    Not in any practical sense to making a dent in anything.

     

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  29.  
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    Joe Smith, May 27th, 2007 @ 11:23am

    Granny

    My experience is that unsophisticated home users find their Windows machines become pretty much useless after about a year as a result of all of the spyware crap.

    If someone (say my mother) wanted to get a home computer to use for email and surfing the web then a Linux box would be a tempting low cost solution.

     

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  30.  
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    Enrique, May 29th, 2007 @ 6:32am

    Re:

    I'll add to Dan's comment by say that users are dumb and don't like change. It's hard enough to get them to use Windows when it prompts them for everything under the sun. Linux would make them think and this is something a user will refuse to do.
    Let's also not forget the cool in factor of which Linux has zip, zero, zilch. As a matter of fact it's a geek OS, that only geek losers use (public perception). Mac's are back in style not because they are easy to use, which they are, but because they are perceived as cool and the in thing. The penguin the in Indy 500 was a sad attempt to make Linux popular. They took something with no brand recognition and pasted it on a race car thinking it would get some recognition.
    The regular use wants to be spoon fed information and doesn't want anything to do with learning or reading any manual. Until Linux has useless amounts of software available (it doesn't matter if it's good software, they just want choices), has drivers for everything out there, will practically turn itself on get the user their chips and beer, AND when it gets some street cred, MAYBE then it will take off. Until then people have Windows and Mac and not much else thinking to do.

     

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  31.  
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    Bryan Price, May 29th, 2007 @ 11:46am

    And I'm curious as to how well this compares to the Apple tax.

     

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