[Cnet News] - Dell now has begun selling two models of its laptops with Linux
products, the Latitude CPX and the Inspiron 7500, come with Red Hat Linux 6.1
and are certified by Linuxcare. The Inspirons with Linux are available now,
but the Latitudes will be available Feb. 4, according to a company representative.
The move has been expected since last August.
CPX is the top-of-the-line model of Dell's Latitude line, slimmer and more expensive
than the Inspirons, which are designed to be more like replacements for desktop
computers. The price for the Linux models is the same as for the Windows 98
models, the representative said.
has been selling servers, workstations, and business desktops with Linux preinstalled.
All major hardware companies offer servers guaranteed to work with Linux, a
clone of the network-friendly Unix operating system, but comparatively few have
been offering Linux for laptops. One hurdle: Laptops often come with proprietary
hardware that are more difficult for Linux programmers to support, though informal
sites such as Linux on Laptops offer extensive help.
also has made sure Linux works with a model of its ThinkPad laptops, but there
were issues with the Windows-only modem and other hardware features. Dell got
around the modem problem by using a PC Card modem, the Dell representative said.
Although IBM was first to announce Linux compatibility for its laptops, Dell
is the first major vendor to make one available with Linux factory-installed.
Despite Dell's representative's claims, a comparably equipped Latitude CPx costs
approximately $200 more for a Linux model than for a Windows 98 model ($3387
vs $3188). We expect/hope this is due to start-up, and not because Dell plans
to jack up the cost because it has a "captive audience".
In a bigger sense, this is an important step. Dell's decision to provide a Linux
laptop legitimizes the concept. Michael Dell et al. do not generally
provide products unless they think they can make money from them. We expect
Compaq and HP will also follow suit within three to six months. We also expect
Dell to continue forming strategic Linux alliances, though not with more than
three or four companies.
this also reinforces is that Dell's success/future is much more tied to Intel
than to Microsoft. Intel has generated ill will with its recent chip supply
problems, and Dell would be justified in cultivating a backup CPU source (a/k/a
Advanced Micro Devices). However, Michael Dell has made it quite clear that
he has no plans to change from Intel. This is in contrast to Dell's willingness
to load Linux (i.e., the "anti-Windows") wherever it thinks it reasonable. We
realize the situations are not exactly the same, but the parallels for the two
dominant players in their respective fields cannot be ignored.
In our attempt to sound like a broken record (forgive the archaic phrasing):
users who have no interest in Linux should ignore this announcement. Except
for robustness and reliability, there is nothing Linux can offer in a notebook
that Windows NT can't, after a few Service Packs.
per usual, users considering a switch to Linux should investigate. There is
a big difference between Linux on laptops and Linux on a server: if the server
GUI is clunky, no one really cares (not really, but you get the idea). On a
notebook, a clumsy interface means some level of pain every time a user tries
to do any work. Ergonomics is very important for laptops - an experience which
detracts (or distracts) from getting one's work done makes the product a loser.
Therefore, potential customers should "try before buy", if they can get that
kind of deal from Dell.
In addition, as always, Linux desktop apps have only limited availability at
present. Dell might consider (after confirming it works as well as hyped) using
Corel's version of Linux, which Corel claims will allow Windows applications
to run on Linux.