Did Microsoft Make Dell Take Back Love Letter To Linux?

Dell sells lots of computers that run on Windows. It sells a few that run on Linux. Apparently eager to sell a few more of the latter, Dell boasted on its site that the free operating system is “safer than Microsoft Windows.” Bad idea. The claim has vanished, replaced by the less specific “Ubuntu [Linux] is secure.”

The initial statement appeared as part of a “Top 10” list about Ubuntu. Among the points made by Dell:

8) Ubuntu is “social from the start”

The people who make Ubuntu designed it to be very social-media centric. Do you use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or any of the other dozens of popular social networking sites? Ubuntu 9.10 works very well with these websites. And beginning with Ubuntu 10.04, these websites will be integrated into the Ubuntu OS itself for your convenience.

7) Ubuntu plays videos, songs, and movies easily

Do you like to watch videos on YouTube, buy songs from Amazon, pop in DVD’s from the local video store? No problem! Dell bundles a multimedia player with Ubuntu to deliver a great entertainment experience.(DRM protected music not supported.)

6) Ubuntu is safer than Microsoft Windows

The vast majority of viruses and spyware written by hackers are not designed to target and attack Linux.

Most of the list is still intact, but the statement about security has been completely rewritten:

6) Ubuntu is secure

According to industry reports, Ubuntu is unaffected by the vast majority of viruses and spyware.

Dell hasn’t commented about the change, but Linux fans have drawn a line from Redmond to Austin. Steven J. Vauhan-Nichols summarized the theory in Computerworld:

So why did Dell back down from their claims for Ubuntu Linux. I’m not getting any answers from Dell, but I think it’s pretty easy to guess: Microsoft took note of people talking about Dell saying nice things about Linux, and decided to “have a word” with Dell. Microsoft has been pushing the computer vendors around for decades — which is why Windows is so popular, not because Windows is better than the alternatives.

Dell continues to sell computers bundled with Ubuntu, though real Linux users will tell you … wait for it … that they make their own at home.

Dell backtracks on Linux being safer than Windows [Computerworld]
Ubuntu, Keeps getting better! [Dell]


Edit Your Comment

  1. madtube says:

    Um, yeah. I have built many computers. I have bought some Dells. My best bet? Build a computer for myself for whatever OS I am inclined to build it for. My office machine runs Win7 Pro, my home server runs Linux, my sister’s office is Win7 Premium, and my sister’s kitchen media center is Linux, all hand-built. The only computers I have not built are my 2 MacBook Pros.

    Micro$oft has definitely pulled some shenanigans on this one. Tools.

    • Nisun says:

      Agreed! I’m sure M$ had something to do with the wording change.

    • RyansChestHair says:

      “Kitchen Media Center?” What the hell is that? I’m from a world where kitchens are used for cooking and baking.

  2. stormbird says:

    As someone using a laptop that came with Win Vista (sob!) and now runs Linux Mint, I can see why Microsoft has to strongarm builders into silence.

  3. shepd says:

    I use linux a lot and this is a tempest in a teapot. Quite frankly, the original wording is stupid. Dell sells both OSes and doesn’t need to pit them against each other like that.

    Furthermore, even though I’m a big basher of a lot of MS products, a properly patched, properly administered, properly secured windows OS isn’t really all that much more “dangerous” than Linux. The difference is the effort it takes to get there, but that’s a fine point that isn’t really needed in such a general overview.

    • Nisun says:

      Agreed! but in my experience the user is the biggest security problem on a computer. (I fix way too many computers where the user installed limewire to get music and all those new games… when will they ever learn)

      • Newto-Rah says:

        “1 megabyte .exe to install grand theft auto? Sweet deal!”

        Guhhh, some people shouldn’t be allowed to own computers.

        And as everyone else is chiming in with their OS opinion, I’m currently typing on my netbook with ubuntu 10.04 and playing a game on my laptop that’s running windows 7. Different OSes for different applications, people get way into these things

    • JonStewartMill says:

      a properly patched, properly administered, properly secured windows OS isn’t really all that much more “dangerous” than Linux.

      But most end users are ill-qualified to “properly” administer and secure their PCs. Wouldn’t they be better served by using an OS where after-installation security measures aren’t so critical?

      • nbs2 says:

        But that doesn’t make Ubuntu safer than Windows. It makes it easier to be safe and more secure, but not safer.

        Let’s put it this way – if I have my choice of two houses, one in Mayberry and the other in Compton, the Mayberry choice is easier to be safe in. In Compton, I have to install additional locks, bar the windows, etc, but I can make the house itself as safe as the one in Mayberry. they neighborhood may still be bad, but I’m just as safe. Same thing. Of course, it would be easier to just move to Mayberry…

    • Tim says:

      I’m not anywhere near an expert on this, but I’m willing to bet that it costs Dell more to sell a computer with Windows than Ubuntu. So really, it is in their best interest to push the Ubuntu ones more.

      • notserpmh says:

        Although it is hard to know the exact numbers without working for Dell accounting, the Windows machines could easily cost less than the Ubuntu machines.

        First, the Windows license only adds about $15-$35 per machine, depending on who’s estimate you use (the exact cost is covered by a NDA in the contract between Microsoft and Dell).

        Second, the Windows machines almost always (at least the “home” models) come full of crapware. Each piece of crapware is on there not because Dell thinks it will help you out, but because some company paid Dell to add it. There is no crapware on the Linux machines.

        Third, Dell has had a Windows support staff, outsourced in India or where for just about forever. They all already have windows training, and manuals for them to follow. With Linux, it typically takes a higher level of tech support (often more than someone who can just read off a manual) and therefore the support costs could easily be higher.

        All this said, it is easy to see how the Windows machines could cost the same, or even less than the Linux machines, from Dell’s point of view.

  4. smo0 says:

    Linux ftw! Haha!

  5. SabreDC says:

    Just what I look for in an operating system: how well it integrates with MySpace.

  6. JonStewartMill says:

    “Microsoft has been pushing the computer vendors around for decades — which is why Windows is so popular, not because Windows is better than the alternatives. “

    I worked for a computer consultancy in the 90s. We tried hard to be vendor-agnostic, but Microsoft eventually lowered the boom on us. The ultimatum: become an all-MS shop or lose all discounts on MS products, along with any and all sales leads and referrals. We rolled over. . . and lost dozens of customers who didn’t share Steve Ballmer’s “Windows Everywhere” pipe dream.

    • shepd says:

      But, but, but, Bill Gates isn’t really a criminal. He never lied to judges about how he forced companies to be MS-only or else, there really was no antritrust going on.

      I remind people of this fact when they like to say how great Bill Gates is since he runs that fancy foundation of his. Yes, he’s being nice. Today. However, I can’t trust a man that is so ruthless, and I don’t think others should either.

      • cluberti says:

        You find me someone in charge of an organization that large that isn’t ruthless and I’ll show you a Unicorn.

    • LMacConn says:

      So, to put it another way – the discounts on MS products, along with sales leads and referrals, made sense for your business to lose those dozens of customers and become an all-MS shop?

  7. The Gray Train says:

    i love ubuntu linux, at least once i learned how to actually use my computer again :P. anyway, the only reason i have windows is for gaming, both installed from cd and steam. linux is way faster and smoother than windows.

  8. The Gray Train says:

    i love ubuntu linux, at least once i learned how to actually use my computer again :P. anyway, the only reason i have windows is for gaming, both installed from cd and steam. linux is way faster and smoother than windows.

  9. TrustAvidity says:

    People need to learn there is a HUGE difference between being safe and not being targeted.

    • jeff_the_snake says:

      linux isn’t perfect just like anything else but fundamentally it’s more secure than windows. given an equal level of effort by attackers i’d trust the linux box any day of the week. vista and 7 have both made huge strides in security features though.

    • Llama says:

      UNIX-like systems are always more secure than Windows, because of the basic way that things work. You have a root user which can do ANYTHING, but you never log on as that – you raise your permissions for a short period of time for the important staff. Anything that can be executed needs permission before it executes.

      UNIX was designed for multi-user, so its innately made to restrict what a user can do (unless its root). Windows wasn’t, so the basic user can do whatever he wants on the system – even if its a virus executing on its own and ‘patching’ a few important things.

  10. Paladin_11 says:

    I love to bash Microsoft as much as the next guy but I suspect this is less than sinister. I think it represents an unauthorized use of Microsoft’s trademarks. They can’t just say “Microsoft Windows” in an ad without approval, and given the context is it really a surprise that Microsoft would say no?

    • CJ SIege says:

      What? Why can’t they? If they are making a factual, quantifiable claim about a competing product, I’d say that that is a fair use for sure.

      • SabreDC says:

        IANAL, but I do not think fair use doctrine applies to marketing and commercial materials. Fair use is meant to protect people who are providing a commentary, news report, research, or other use for journalistic/scholastic purposes.

  11. 47ka says:

    I love these “my OS is safer than yours” wars. I’ve run XP for the last eight years and the only times I got viruses were after I had used my USB key on a Mac (and I’m not exactly shy about downloading stuff). I developed a personal policy to scan my USB keys after they’d been used on a Mac; the one time I forgot I got a rootkit – that was fun to get rid of a week before exams.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      Your Mac was infected? Or your Windows machine was vulnerable?

      • 47ka says:

        Macs harbor viruses even if they’re not “affected” by them. My Windows machine only gets viruses if I open a document or video that was previously opened on a Mac.

        Perhaps it’s Steve Jobs’ version of a Trojan horse.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Disable auto-run. I’d bet a dollar that’s what got you.

  12. PsiCop says:

    OMG! WTF? Dell dissed the Linux fanbois!? Sound the alarms and screech and wail about the Great Micro$oft Conspiracy!

    The truth about the “OS wars” is that they need not, and should not, exist. Some OSes are better than others, for some people, and for some purposes. That’s just the way it is.

    Time to get over it and move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

  13. cluberti says:

    It’s probably also worth noting that most of Dell’s userbase would be the same folks who ran out to buy netbooks from Wal-Mart a few years back running Linux, the vast majority of whom returned them because they couldn’t use them with all their software. I wouldn’t doubt that conversation happened, along with the fact that Dell can’t just use the Microsoft Windows name in an advert without Microsoft’s approval, let alone a competition ad. Honestly, Dell was just stupid on this one.

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    For any annoyed Ubantu fans, leave Dell for Apple – you’ll find their site has the cajones to stand up to Gates, Balmer AND their little* Windows doggie too!

    * Err, actually quite bloated and large, but the Kansas reference wouldn’t have survived so…

    (yeah, I know, I know. OSX ≠ Open Source. But then THAT joke wouldn’t have worked so…)

  15. kc2idf says:

    though real Linux users will tell you … wait for it … that they make their own at home.

    <div class=”sarcasm”>Yeah, that’s how to build community. Those who know stuff should put up a wall to separate themselves from the newbies.</div>

    I make my own, but I surely won’t disparage anyone who buys a built computer.

  16. kylere1 says:

    Just another reason this dude is never getting a Dell.

  17. Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

    This seems like a good application of, “Never ascribe malice to that which can be explained by stupidity.”

    Some marketing peep at Dell was just a little overenthusiastic here- you don’t try to make sales by bashing another brand you also carry, which incidentally sells a much, much greater share. I doubt MS was ever involved, just somebody’s boss internally.

  18. AgitatedDot says:

    Linux sucks big time. You need to be careful what hardware is inside because some of the most common chipsets are still not fully supported like Realtek wireless cards and some Intel chipsets. While Linux is powering the net and has a huge share in super computer market when it comes to desktop market it’s years behind Windows.

    • Bripanov says:

      Hmm. I can run a modern operating system that’s “years behind” or a 10-year-old operating system on this ancient 1GHz Athlon that does everything I need it to do.

      Some years

    • Bripanov says:

      Terrible shame, all that expensive hardware one bought that now isn’t supported by any Windows newer than XP.

      Hardware support is spotty across the board, is not unique to Linux, and doesn’t make Linux suck. Intel has been getting better, except for Poulsbo.

      Realtek…well, Realtek is a cheap card. Ralink is better supported if you want cheap.

  19. apexwm says:

    Linux users don’t need to build their own PCs. Linux will run on most standard desktops from common vendors like Dell, HP, etc. I’m a die hard Linux user and I just don’t have the time to build my own PCs. I buy new PCs from Dell usually, then when I get the PCs I promptly request a refund for Windows back from Dell.