You'll see many posts out on the web talking about what a great thing it is that Dell is offering a Free OS on their hardware. And many stories talking about the Windows Tax. I was very disappointed to see the superficial overview that Jeff Atwood on his website, he has always done very in depth reviews in the past, however he slipped this time:
Whether you're a fan of the latest open source operating systems, or just a fan of plain old-fashioned consumer choice, the end of the Microsoft tax is a win for customers. I was a little worried that Dell would charge extra for the privilege, but it looks like they played fair and square:
Dell Dimension E520 Dell Dimension E520N CPU Core 2 Duo E4300 1.86 GHz Core 2 Duo E4300 1.86 GHz RAM 1 GB DDR2 1 GB DDR2 Hard Drive 250 GB 250 GB Media CD-RW/DVD CD-RW/DVD Video Integrated Intel GMA X3000 Integrated Intel GMA 950 OS Windows Vista Home Premium Ubuntu Desktop Edition 7.04 $679 $599
Because if you are just looking at the table above it looks like you are getting a real bargain, from any consumers point of view. You may think that you can save $80.00 by getting a PC with Linux on it and then using pirated software, free Microsoft Windows software from your university, or just taking your friends CD for a night. In all cases you will be screwed out of the Windows support that comes at a premium with Linux. I am not saying this is for everybody, because I imagine most of the readers of this website only call the support lines when they have already figured out they need their hardware replaced.
However there are a good 95% (totally made up number) that still use support for basic things such as printer installs, troubleshooting mouse problems, and other common tasks that we can do in our sleep.
|Dell Dimension E520
|Dell Dimension E520N
|Core 2 Duo E4300 1.86 GHz
|Core 2 Duo E4300 1.86 GHz
|1 GB DDR2
|1 GB DDR2
|Integrated Intel GMA X3000
|Integrated Intel GMA 950
|Windows Vista Home Premium
|Ubuntu Desktop Edition 7.04
|FREE (1 year)
|$275 (1 year - standard)
So the price is no where near equal when you start looking at support options. In fact if I was to up my support plan to 3 years, I could still only get 1 year of support for $275.00, however if I was to up my support plan in for Windows I would get 3 years of support for Windows at no cost.
I know many of you are still rolling your eyes at the idea that you would need support for Windows, but you have to step back and look at a computer through a total novices eyes, and realize they still see a computer as performing, as my grandmother-in-law says, "magic". That "magic" as she put it was just because she could chat in real time over GTalk to her grand-children through the computer.
As much as I love Ubuntu, and Linux in general, I have never liked the whining or group think mentality that comes with being an OSS zealot. I am sure they say the same about me and Windows, but at least I consciously choose Windows because I am more productive on it. I didn't choose my operating system in order to "stick it to the man", as one of my friends put it. I really think selling Ubuntu was a big PR move from Dell, had nothing to do with promoting free Open Source Software. Basically they just wanted some street creds, because their sales have been tumbling, and HP, has taken Dell's place, and become the largest supplier of computers in the world. Getting a small group of users on their side, may help them meet Wall Street Estimates this new fiscal year.
I make these observation because you could always buy a PC from Dell with out an operating system, by going through the Small Business site and choosing FreeDOS as your operating system. This goes for all the major manufactures, including Dell, HP, and Lenovo to name a few. It is just that some very vocal Linux activist conveniently forget this when they are arrogantly talking about the "Microsoft Tax" and the strangle hold Microsoft has over these manufactures.