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More Linux Laptops? Distributions Are Too “Alienated,” Says Dell CEO

By Jacqueline Emigh
Linux Today Correspondent

Now that a laptop with pre-installed Mandrake Linux is available
in France, will Dell follow up with Linux laptops in the US or
other nations? In the words of Dell CEO Michael Dell, the many
distributions of Linux are too “alienated” from each other to make
that work.

When Linux Today posed this question during this week’s press
launch of new consumer products and service offerings from Dell,
the company chief didn’t reply with a definite “yes” or “no.”

But, he said, in looking at the prospect of offering
pre-installed PCs elsewhere, Dell discovered there must be
“literally hundreds of distributions” of Linux–and, further, that
these distributions are quite “alienated” from each other.

“Instead, we have the n-Series,” Michael Dell told Linux Today
during a press Q&A at Dell’s consumer launch press conference
in New York City.

Shipped without an installed OS, Dell’s existing n-Series PC
workstations ship are bundled with FreeDOS, a free operating
system. The n-Series PCs are members of Dell’s Optiplex and
Precision workstation series.

Meanwhile, the new laptop with pre-installed Mandrake is now
being sold from Dell’s French-language Web site. Students in France
can get low-rate loans if they buy the Mandrake machine, but the
laptop is also available to others without this sort of financial
aid.

Pre-installed with Mandriva Limited Edition 2005, the Dell
Latitude Ln 110 comes with an Intel Celeron M processor; 15-inch
XGA LCD screen; built-in WiFi; a DVD drive; 256MB to 1.28 GB RAM;
and an 8-cell lithium ion battery.

Meanwhile, at the Dell press conference in New York City on
Wednesday, the company rolled out a new brand of XPS desktop and
notebook PCs for the US market, along with the Dell Dimension E510
desktop PC and an expanded line-up of digital TVs.

Aimed by Dell at “tech enthusiasts,” gamers, and affluent
households, the new XPS brand initially includes the XPS M170
notebook and the XPS 600, XPS 400 and XPS 200 desktop PCs.

All of the PCs announced at the launch will ship with Microsoft
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. For the E510, Windows XP Home
or Professional will be optionally available, according to Dell’s
press materials.

During the press conference, Mike George, Dell’s VP of consumer
products, told reporters that Dell’s US consumer business has grown
rapidly over the past few years, so that it now constitutes 15
percent of all Dell revenues.

Beyond the new XPS brand, he said, Dell will try to further grow
its consumer business in the US with new service offerings in
sales, tech support, and maintenance.

Speaking with Linux Today at the launch, George said that, in a
new sales program–which was beta tested over the summer in the
Nashville, TN region–consumers calling in over the phone to Dell
with be assigned personal sales reps, to help “guide” them through
the buying process.