Dell began selling its Ubuntu Linux consumer PCs over the weekend, and I’ve made my purchase. Overall, Dell’s online store and configuration system provided a smooth buying experience. But I do have one concern about the PC even before it arrives on my doorstep.
First, the good news: With a few clicks of a mouse, I was able to select a Dell PC with Ubuntu Linux and lots of upgrades — 2GB of RAM, more than 300GB of disk space, a 256MB video card, 22-inch LCD, and lots of other enhancements. Total bill: about $1,400, including a $150 discount.
Some people think that’s a lot of money for a Linux box. But PC users who think Linux is a “free” or low-cost operating system are missing the bigger picture. Linux is about value, reliability and customer choice. It potentially delivers more value for your dollar than a Windows PC–without the security and reliability headaches associated with Windows. Plus, it comes with a boatload of valuable software, like OpenOffice. Overall, I’m not out to save a few dollars. I want to support customer choice while also avoiding some of the problems associated with Windows.
Still, I have two concerns. First, Dell isn’t actually supporting Ubuntu Linux. Dell’s Web site points out that software-related problems will be handled by Ubuntu’s developer, Canonical. I paid a few extra bucks for a full year of Canonical support, just in case something goes wrong. If I experience a problem, I hope I won’t wind up in a situation where Canonical and Dell point the finger at each other.
My second concern: I wonder if Canonical has staffed up to handle a potential wave of support calls from Dell customers. Remember, IBM dropped the ball — badly — when its phone support team wasn’t prepared to handle support calls for OS/2 consumer systems more than a decade ago. Let’s hope that Dell and Canonical don’t repeat that mistake. Ubuntu may only get one chance with customers like me. Let’s hope Dell and Canonical make a good first impression.
I expect my Ubuntu Linux system to arrive around June 12. I’ll keep you posted.