Why do PC manufacturers not ship PCs with Linux and Windows?

Discussion in 'Apple, Inc and Tech Industry' started by superbungalow, Feb 27, 2009.

  1. superbungalow macrumors member

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    #1
    Basically, I'm writing a speech for English GCSE, about the state of the PC Operating system market. I've been having a look around, and I was wondering if anyone could help me by telling me why you don't see Linux PCs anywhere. I've read it's something to do with OEM contracts, but these are old articles, and I'm not sure if Microsoft have been prevented from doing this anymore (they've been fined so many times I can't keep up). And if this is case, why do Dell sell Linux PCs on its website? I've also heard OEMs get discounts for advertising Windows over other operating systems. Again, why do they advertise their Mini 9, running Ubuntu? Just wondering if you could give me an insight as to why the OS market is like this, thanks :D
     
  2. Eidorian macrumors Penryn

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    #2
    I think you should look a little harder. Dell's N Series is ancient. That's just scraping the top too.
     
  3. superbungalow thread starter macrumors member

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    #3
    They aren't very well publicized if there are. Why aren't PC manufacturers trying harder to sell these to basic users? Surely they make more money on them? And why don't manufacturers offer the option of having Windows and Linux at no (very little) extra cost, with it being free and all?
     
  4. Eidorian macrumors Penryn

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    #4
    Imaging and support costs tend to be the main issues. They're rarely on the front page but yes they are there.
     
  5. superbungalow thread starter macrumors member

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  6. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #6
    Isn't the idea of your homework that you do it? :p

    Another idea... but you can search for the links yourself: with the recent advent of netbooks, the first wave or two of netbooks had a very Linux-rich mix of shipped operating system. The experience was that reviewers complained about Linux not infrequently, a number of users went and installed Windows over the Linux installation because of various issues with getting the Linux installation working and doing everything that was desired (I think, Dell was quite smart to ship Ubuntu on theirs and not try to create something customized).

    It is true that Microsoft made concessions targeted at making XP the OS of choice on these notebooks, but my experience with getting one of the first popular netbooks shortly after it launched was that, by and large, the community was very supportive of the transition to Windows from Linux, even though there were a number of stalwarts insisting on Linux.

    I like Linux to some extent, although I think the extent to which it lags in supporting new hardware (especially mobile hardware) is an issue. But companies selling notebooks and desktops do so to make profits, not to evangelize Linux or Windows. To the extent that Linux leads them in the direction of developing a loyal customer base and making profits, you'll see them adopt it.
     
  7. Eidorian macrumors Penryn

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    #7
    Sadly I graduated ages ago.
     
  8. Demosthenes X macrumors 68000

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    Demand? If there was enough market demand for Linux, then OEMs probably would offer it. Dell obviously saw some demand, so they ship with Windows.

    But I'll wager most users do not know about, care about, or want Linux. People buying cheap PCs want, by and large, what they are familiar with: Windows. And people buying higher-end workstations want the industry standard: Windows.

    Most companies are not going to bother heavily advertising the Linux option when most people will likely skip right over it. Those that do want Linux have some OEM options, but I'll wager they're also the ones more comfortable building their own machines, and so many go that route.

    If/when offering Linux as an alternate choice across the board is financially prudent, then you'll see it being offered. Not before.
     
  9. superbungalow thread starter macrumors member

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    #9
    So why don't manufacturers offer the option of Linux dual booted? This would require barely any effort on their part and would encourage incredibly light users (like people who just need to chat and surf, and potentially use openoffice/ google docs) to possibly buy a linux only computer (even if it is a secondary computer). Wouldn't an increase in popularity of Linux (Ubuntu for example) spur on more developers and attract more people to the platform, boosting sales in the long term?
     
  10. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #10
    Here, you would have to show that the hardware sales are being boosted by the presence of Linux on the computers. There doesn't seem to be strong evidence of this. In fact the Netbook world again demonstrated quite the opposite. Consumer demand caused Asus, for instance, to shift from an initial plan of selling most of their computers with Linux and a minority with Windows, to the exact opposite.

    The problem is that "the platform" -- Linux -- uses the same hardware as Windows. When OS X becomes more popular, people buy Macs so they can use it. But people with PCs don't need to buy more PCs to use Linux -- if a system comes with dual-boot Windows and Ubuntu, and this causes Ubuntu to rise in popularity, how does this make anyone sell more computers? If anything, it might cause them to sell less copies of Windows. If this happened, the computer's price would drop, which might help sell more computers, but immediately they would also experience a profit loss from their loss of cut on the copy of Windows.
     
  11. superbungalow thread starter macrumors member

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    #11
    What do you mean by that?
     
  12. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #12
    I don't know. You took half of one of my sentences and slammed it into half of another sentence to make a complete absurdity. How should I know what that means? I didn't say it. :p
     
  13. superbungalow thread starter macrumors member

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    #13
    Woopsie, sorry :p I meant this:

     
  14. valdore macrumors 65816

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    #14
    I don't know a whole lot about the skullduggery going on but it's been long said that MSFT hardballs its way with its partners to keep competition stifled.

    In my opinion each OS, be it Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux, all have some things that irritate me. Some less than others though.
     
  15. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #15
    What I meant was that, if you have a computer that exists now and ships with Windows, and you change it to be dual boot Ubuntu and Windows (which the user could have done themselves pretty easily anyway), then there's no reason the price would go down as a result of this, right? If anything, the price might go up marginally due to the work of putting Ubuntu on it. But let's ignore those few cents. So now you have a computer that used to ship with Windows, but it ships with Ubuntu and Windows instead. If this makes Ubuntu more popular, how does this help the manufacturer sell more PCs? There's not a lot of evidence that people are flocking to Ubuntu on PC hardware from outside the existing pool of Windows users. It's just an adjustment of the mix. If you sell a computer with Windows on it, and right now, 95% of the users use Windows and 5% use Linux on it, then how does it help you as an OEM if that evolves to 80% Windows and 20% Linux?

    If anything, you will have to deal with the Linux users being angry that they're paying for Windows and not using it. What then? You get pressure to drop Windows from your sales package. But you were making a profit on every copy of Windows that you shipped -- e.g. paying MS $35 for it and selling it to the user for $45 or whatever. So now you've lost that $10 in profit. And replaced it with... what? Unless you can demonstrate that the $45 lowering in cost makes you sell more PCs, you've ended up behind where you used to be.

    In the case of Netbooks, the lower price did in part make them really popular, although their size and weight were certainly selling points also, as well as their cute factor and for some people their modifiability. But if anything, the marketers found their sales improved when they included Windows... they didn't suffer from the presence or cost of Windows.
     
  16. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    I was involved in the Linux Holy War many years ago, but here's the way I see the answer to your question:

    (1) There are Linux PC's out there, but most Linux users are do-it-yourself types - they would rather install and tweak the system themselves rather than having Dell, HP, etc. do it for them. If you think about it, that was one of the Great Reasons for using Linux in the first place - the Linux community strongly embraces the freedom of choice that goes along with it.

    (2) It's been said before in this thread, but there just isn't that big a demand for Linux on a non-server PC. Believe me, if there were a market for it all the manufacturers - except for maybe Apple - would jump on it.

    (3) It might not mean a lot to some users, but to most PC users there's a great deal of comfort in the familiarity and compatibility with Windows. Venturing away from what they know and are already comfortable with is not an option for many users.

    Answer to your first question: manufacturers of ANY product will only succeed by making a product that people already want. There's nothing to gain by making a product YOU like then trying to ram it down other people's throats. That's not how ANY market works, much less a tech market like OS software.

    Answer to your last question: (1) Microsoft may have limitations on whether they allow their OS to be "bundled" with a competitor (and Ballmer is not a fan of Linux), and (2) it goes back to the market question - there just aren't enough people interested in it.

    See above. Also you need to remember that although the Linux community is small by comparison, there are many different flavors of Linux - Dell would have a hard enough time growing a Linux-only division, but then they would have to offer up Ubuntu, Gentoo, Fedora, etc. There's no economy of scale in doing that.

    Again, a product like Linux is aimed at the DIY crowd much more so than other OS's. There's nothing for the PC manufacturers to gain by trying to market it to people who are already using it, and there's no incentive for the manufacturers to try to get non-Linux users to switch.
     
  17. superbungalow thread starter macrumors member

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    What I'm saying is that it would give people who have no idea about Linux a first hand experience, and possibly encourage them to buy Linux only computers, which make the company more money, because they are cheaper and run faster.

    My mother had no idea what Linux was, but when I installed ubuntu on her laptop, she was really impressed how fast it was compared to vista, and it did everything she needed to do on that laptop, which is basically surf the web and type up a few documents, at most, in OpenOffice. Now she uses it all the time, and as far as I'm aware, never boots into Windows, because she has a desktop running Windows to do that.

    Over 90% of the computer using population has no idea what Linux is, but it's a perfectly viable replacement for Windows on a secondary computer, if only people knew about it and could test it for their needs. No one is going to buy a Linux only computer, because they are worried it won't do what they need it to, which it might not, leaving them with a crippled computer and having to buy a copy of Windows at retail price.

    Similarly no-one is going to dual-boot ubuntu themselves because they don't know how to, or even what ubuntu is. And the people that do know how to are people who need to do more than what ubuntu offers them.

    Again, to paraphrase myself; if normal computer users could buy laptops dual booting Windows and Linux, at very minimal extra cost, it would give them a first hand experience, and possibly encourage them to buy Linux only computers, which make the company more money, because they are cheaper and run faster.
     
  18. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

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    #18
    And again, this is where the logical process breaks down. Why would the hardware OEM make more money because their computers become "cheaper and run faster"? The only recent example of computer OEMs making more money because their computers get cheaper is the Netbooks, and as I've said now repeatedly (and you've ignored), they started out almost uniformly running Linux and went to almost uniformly running Windows XP by consumer demand.

    There are two major examples of people making money selling computers in the past couple of years. The Netbooks are one, as discussed above, and Apple is the other. The Netbooks suggest that putting Linux on a computer to make it cheaper and "run faster" doesn't help sales or profitability. Apple suggests that making computers cheaper in general isn't necessarily the best way to make profits, as they make generally the best profits in the industry and never sell anything cheaply....

    Let alone the question of whether Ubuntu really runs faster than XP on basic hardware (my experience is Ubuntu Desktop does not, although certainly some variants of Linux do).

    If you want to say that putting Linux on a computer does some societal good -- I have no argument with that. But that's just not the same thing as engendering profitability, and it's not fair to just mindlessly pretend it is.
     
  19. Les Kern macrumors 68040

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    #19
    Various groups are trying to control the message, and they are fighting for the attention of the ignorant masses. Problem is, they all lie.
     
  20. Tomorrow macrumors 604

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    Even if this were a good idea, why is it the responsibility of the PC manufacturers? The Linux community has been pushing the OS for years - my first use of it was back around '94, and my first install back in '96 - and it still hasn't made the inroads to the desktop market that many projected it would.

    Like I said earlier, the PC manufacturers are in it to sell PC's, not to push users into one OS or another. Let the OS manufacturers fight that war.

    Fixed that for ya.

    You almost got that right. A handful of consumers are buying Linux-only PC's, but most Linux users do it themselves.

    The people who want to dual-boot any Linux distro are most likely going to do it themselves, and do know how to do it themselves. I've known many Linux users and belonged to Linux users groups, and I've never heard anyone complain that they need more than what any distro could offer them. Linux is modular; if you're missing a package or module, just add it on.

    The PC manufacturers aren't making any significant profit of the OS's they sell. Again, they sell hardware, they resell software. They aren't going to boost profits by expanding into a very small (by comparison) market selling an OS that people can get completely free of charge.

    And again, you seem to be advocating that Linux should be pushed onto users. I'm not a Linux hater by any means, but most people who aren't already using Linux just plain, flat-out, don't want to. That's a war you're not going to win.
     
  21. superbungalow thread starter macrumors member

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    #21
    No average consumer buys a netbook (I'm talking mums and grandmothers), only people who do a lot of work with computers, generally technically capable people, buy netbooks, and therefore need windows.

    I'm not talking about a replacement for XP, or on netbooks. More like for Vista. And in my experience, ubuntu runs a lot faster than Vista. This way companies can sell laptops for $40 less by not paying Microsoft for OEM software.
     
  22. superbungalow thread starter macrumors member

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    #22
    This isn't about which OS is better by the way, it's quite obvious Windows is better. What it's about is the lack of competition in the OS market. PC manufacturers want to make people buy PCs over macs, and have even offering to run OS X on their hardware, if Apple would allow it. If they marketed Linux it wouldn't sell that many more in the short term, but it would make Microsoft take notice if Linux started approaching >3% market share (it's about 1% now). And it would mean both OS's would work harder. It's about the monopoly Microsoft has, and the fact that innovation in the OS market is drying up.
     
  23. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #23
    Are you really writing a GCSE article or just trolling? You started out claiming that Linux would boost PC OEM profitability, and as you've really repeatedly failed to develop any reasonable bases on which this might happen, now it's suddenly all about a "lack of competition?"
     
  24. coupdetat macrumors 6502

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    #24
    Because Linux is garbage, in terms of usability.
     
  25. Tomorrow macrumors 604

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    Yes, and Apple wants people to buy Macs over PC's. Now you're talking about hardware manufacturers selling hardware, which I think is an entirely appropriate argument.

    Yes, but again the PC hardware manufacturers have no vested interest in marketing Linux any more than they have a vested interest in marketing beer - it isn't what they do.

    And believe me, Microsoft has noticed Linux, and they did so a long time ago. While Linux does have a very small market share on PC desktops, they actually have a very significant share of the server market (on the order of 25% or so) and lead Microsoft in the web hosting market. And it's no surprise - Linux has its roots as a network/server OS, not as a desktop OS.

    I think you underestimate the amount of R&D going into OS development on all fronts, including Linux. What hurts Linux in terms of innovation is that because most distros are free, there's very little financial incentive to develop it. Many developers will naturally gravitate toward projects that actually pay them for their efforts.
     

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