Why The Dell/Ubuntu Deal Won’t Improve Linux’s Market Share

Over the past few weeks much has been written about Dell’s decision to offer desktop and notebook PCs that have the Ubuntu Linux distro installed on them as opposed to Windows. Dell offered this distro based on overwhelming levels of feedback from the IdeaStorm community. The community cried out for a Linux distro (Ubuntu in particular), Dell delivered. But despite the fact that this is a huge step towards making a Linux distro mainstream, I firmly believe this move won’t have any significant positive effect on the Linux market share. When you take a few steps back from the furor and zealotry and take a close look at what’s happened here, you will quickly start to see the cracks. One problem is that Dell appears to be under the misguided impression that listening to the IdeaStorm community is the same as listening to customers. It’s not. Anyone can register and become an instant member of the IdeaStorm community. What Dell listened to wasn’t a cross-section of customers, but rather a pressure group.

There are a series of other pressure groups in operation on IdeaStorm right now, people who are putting their own agendas on the table and expecting Dell to carry them out. Now that Dell gave in to the request to have a Linux distro and responded by picking Ubuntu, the focus has shifted to having OpenOffice or Firefox preinstalled, or to having a greater range of Linux distros. Dell’s going to have to draw a line under some of these requests and reject them, which is going to be unpopular and Dell will have to suffer the consequences.”

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