Dell Sharpens Its Linux Focus

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Dell Sharpens Its Linux Focus
R. Krause - December 18, 2000

Event Summary

[Source: CNET] November 30, 2000 - Dell Computer has announced a deal with Eazel, a developer of Linux-based software. Eazel's primary product is Nautilus, its file management software which runs on the "GNOME" desktop, which, along with KDE, is one of the two main desktops (user interfaces) used with Linux.

Some of the terms have not been disclosed, but they appear to include pre-loading of Nautilus on Dell's Linux-based systems, and an investment by Dell in Eazel.

Eazel has also stated that they are talking to other hardware manufacturers, in an attempt to get even wider distribution and recognition

Market Impact

Linux continues to gain strength as the major Wintel-hardware vendors "explore other options". As mentioned previously (see GNOME Will Try to Buff Up Linux), having a common desktop appearance (with the implication that it looks similar to Windows), is high on the list of barriers Linux must overcome to enhance its acceptance. One facet of the desktop is the file management system, where Eazel's Nautilus works with GNOME. As GNOME continues to fill out its desktop offering/suite, it enhances its competitive position relative to KDE.

Overall, we consider IBM to be the leader among major computer systems manufacturers in embracing Linux. We consider Dell to be #2, based on the availability of factory-installed Linux systems, and their support of Eazel. Compaq and HP are, in our opinion, #3 and 4 - we don't believe their commitment to Linux is quite as high as Dell's.

On a couple of levels, this news is not good for Microsoft, but certainly not a damaging blow. There's a big difference between supporting an initiative and having a product that is a true "Windows killer". In addition, we expect Microsoft to be strengthened and emboldened when George W. Bush becomes President - one of the bigger surprises (for us and many others) of a Bush administration would be if the Microsoft anti-trust action is continued. What this predicted increased strength will translate into, vis-a-vis Linux, will not become apparent until at least mid-2001.

Potentially troublesome to Microsoft is Dell's continuing support of Linux, especially from the viewpoint of persuading other hardware vendors to jump on the Linux-on-desktops bandwagon. Microsoft has weathered "disloyalty" like this in the past, but as more hardware vendors improve their offerings, desktop Linux may reach critical mass. The insufficient number of leading desktop applications (MS Office, Quicken, etc.) for Linux is still an issue for most consumers, so MS still has some breathing room.

User Recommendations

Results from any alliance will take some time to develop, so there is no immediate benefit to be gained by Linux users.

Current and potential Linux users will have the greatest interest in this development. It will take some months for a polished GNOME desktop to be available to the masses, but it shows promise. Linux is still primarily a server-focused OS, but those IT managers willing to consider it for a greater enterprise focus should start paying attention to developments with GNOME, KDE, and various other efforts to make Linux more "masses-friendly".

Die-hard Windows users will, of course, not care one whit about this alliance.

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