Junk App Preloads Subsidise Your PC?

On Dell’s new customer feedback website, pressure is growing for them to ship desktop machines with Linux pre-installed. Often, when this sort of thing is suggested, there’s an expectation that the machines will be cheaper, due to not having to pay the “Microsoft tax”. But would it actually work out that way?

Surprisingly, perhaps not. Robert Accettura comments on a candid blog post by someone from Lenovo (whose WordPress server seems to be down currently) who points out that the reason they preload all those apps which clutter the Windows desktop is that they get paid for doing so. Users are much more likely to buy copies of apps which have cut-down or demo versions already installed.

Such payment would probably not be available for machines shipped with Linux. If those income from these apps offset the cost of Windows itself, and if the vendor’s support costs are higher for Linux and the volumes are smaller, might it end up being that computers running free-of-charge Linux distributions would still cost the purchaser more than those burdened with the Windows tax?

5 thoughts on “Junk App Preloads Subsidise Your PC?

  1. Well, if I had to choose between a �500 Linux PC and a �400 Windows+crapware PC, hardware being equal…
    I’d pick the cheaper one and wipe it clean to put a distro on anyway. Also I’d try to get a refund/trade-in on all the unused software licences. :)

  2. I’d be surprised if all the bundled demo and shareware software even offsets the price of Windows, let alone providing a cheaper overall bundle. Dell could compromise on the Linux demands and offer cheaper systems without an operating system, bundled software or software support. This way they’d be catering to Linux (and no doubt other) enthusiasts while actually doing less.

    Personally, I see Linux-bundled package PCs as a good example of a niche market, a market that would almost certainly be better served by smaller, more dynamic companies than Dell.

  3. How about Dell ship a PC with no OS installed then and offer no OS/software support on said machine? Surely *that* combo has to cost less? What I’d like to see is Dell certify what hardware components work in their desktops/laptops and what don’t (e.g. penguin and green tick for those that do and penguin/red cross for those that don’t). They could then have a “percentage Linux compatible” rating for each model they sell, but still not have to directly support Linux or pre-install it.

    This way, the end-user can pick the OS they want and if they choose Linux, they can be pretty certain it’ll work out of the box (assuming Dell test the components with the three most popular Linux distros e.g. Ubuntu, openSUSE and Fedora). Dell would have to make it absolutely crystal clear (e.g. by an additional EULA-style agreement) that they cannot support the OS or software on a PC bought without an OS. Note that Dell already support the hardware running a non-shipped OS (e.g. if you blat a Windows box with Linux) if you run it through a bootable Dell diagnostics CD to confirm there’s a hardware problem.

  4. @ Richard:
    I guess you missed the part of why all the companies were afraid to sell in China. Lots of Chinese computer makers shipped their computers with no OS, and everyone was getting pirated versions of Windows. Even if Windows was on a more level playing field with Linux and MacOS, you would always have the problem with pirating software. So, shipping with no OS is not really an option.

  5. frankf: sounds like you read the old Microsoft article about “Naked PCs’ increasing piracy. Basically it boiled down to the only possible reason to buy a PC without an OS was to pirate Windows.

    Total rubbish of course. If Dell sold PCs without Windows for about �20 less than the equivalent spec with Windows the difference in price would be low enough that people who wanted Windows would pay for it as it’d be less hassle for them.