Dell yesterday began peddling its latest PC without an operating system. The computer is designed for consumers who plan to install open-source software instead of commercial tools and platforms.
Dubbed the Dimension E510n PC, the computer comes with a blank hard drive and a copy of the FreeDOS operating system that customers can install.
This is not the first time Dell has marketed an operating system-less computer. The Round Rock, Texas-based PC giant started shipping Dell n-Series PCs, none of which have pre-installed operating systems, in September 2002.
The Dimension E510n PC desktop retails for US$849. The computer comes with aPentium 4 processor, 512 MB of advanced DDR computer memory; a 128 MB ATIRadeon X300SE HyperMemory video card; an 80 GB serial ATA hard drive and aone-year limited warranty.
N-series computers like the Dimension E510n seem to target customers and companies that plan to experiment with Linux or other open-source operating systems.
But the systemless computers could also find a place in the enterprise. Enterprises typically erase the hard drives when they purchase computers to install their licensed applications, according to analysts, so purchasing a blank PC could cut costs.
Endpoint Technologies Associates analyst Roger Kay told TechNewsWorld that he is somewhat unclear about the target audience for this new Dell PC. But if the company is targeting Linux users, he said it may not do well.
Dell has been pre-installing Linux on its Precision workstations for the past two years, and plans to continue doing so, but Kay said he hasn’t seen much demand for pre-installed Linux on Dell PCs.
“If Dell says they are selling quantities of blank PCs to people who are loading Linux on them, I am scratching my head, because I don’t know of that many people using Linux as a client operating system,” Kay said. “It’s a big server story, but I don’t see that on the client.”
The Big Question
Dell sells PCs and servers based on Red Hat’s Linux, including the Dell PowerEdge SC430 with a dual-core Pentium. The move came after the long-time Windows supporter recently invested almost $100 million in Red Hat. But Kay is still not convinced.
“Selling blank PCs or PCs with just FreeDOS on them does beg the question of where the software that is going on those PCs is coming from,” Kay said. “Dell can certainly wash its hands and say it’s not their concern. But that’s the same kind of story that Lenovo tells in China. We know that in China the bulk of blank PCs are being loaded with stolen Windows.”
Dell could not immediately be reached for comment.
Streamlining Consumer Products
The Dimension desktop release demonstrates another step in Dell’s efforts to segment its consumer product business into clearly defined groups. Analysts said the Dimension desktop and Inspiron laptop, which make up its consumer product business, will eventually become two distinct groups.
One of those groups will target audiences for home entertainment systems that will come pre-loaded with Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition. In fact, Dell launched the XPS brand of high-performance computers last week, which includes desktop and notebook computers, as part of this offering.