Ubuntu Founder: Let's Make Pre-Installed Linux Easier For OEMs

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, responded to the groundswell of interest in pre-installed Linux on PCs by suggesting the Open Source community take it easier on computer makers who would try to give the people what they want:

. . . (W)e free software fans are a fussy crowd, and very hard to please. You know what you are like -- you sit and configure that Dell system down to the finest detail, you want a specific model of HP laptop, you want the one that has the Intel graphics chipset not the other chipset because you prefer the free driver approach from Intel. . . you are in short an expert, demanding customer. This means, that in order to reach you with Linux, a reseller has to offer Linux EVERYWHERE, not just on a few select models.

Worse, you are not a "Linux" user, you are a user who wants version 6.06.1 of Ubuntu, or 10.2 of SuSE, or Fedora 6. You want a specific distro, and in many cases also a specific VERSION of that distro. In order to please you, the vendor has to offer an enormous matrix of possibilities -- machine and distro/version.

(Emphasis in original.)

One of the sparks for Shuttleworth's words is the current maelstrom that began at Dell's online suggestion box, IdeaStorm, where tens of thousands of people told Dell they wanted PCs with Linux pre-installed. Dell has responded by asking for suggestions about what type of hardware should be factory-installed with Linux first, desktops or notebooks, and what other specifications should be considered.

Hewlett-Packard, the world's Number 1 PC maker, has also said it is providing thousands of PCs with Linux pre-installed -- but only for custom orders and not as factory-ready SKUs. However, HP executives believe the tipping point is getting closer.

Writes Shuttleworth:

It would be great, of course, if those sorts of surveys were less vendor-specific, so that we could express our opinions once and have that counted across the whole industry, but there you have it. (It would also be great if Dell would consider Ubuntu to be both community-- and commercially--supported, but that's a different story . . . :)

Second, we can start looking at ways to change the model so that there's a better fit between customer expectations and the economics of the industry. For example, if you're one of the people who voted for Linux pre-installation on Dell IdeaStorm, would you be happy to receive a Dell box with no OS and with an Ubuntu disk in the box, which you yourself installed, with no support from Dell? What if it came with an assurance that the set of components you had configured *should* work, but no guarantee? Can we tweak the parameters to get to the point where you would be satisfied, and Dell could make a reasonable profit with only reasonable risk?

(Emphasis in original.)

One commenter on Shuttleworth's blog responds to the back-and-forth discussions of PC Linux and writes: "i'm getting so sick and tired of hearing excuses and rationalizations. just put the cd in the cupholder, install it and sell it. period. there's no need to analyze or certify. what is so hard about this?"