Linux On Name Brand Laptops (Not)

Top vendors fail on top Linux notebook support.

Is this because

  1. It's too hard — the hardware isn't compatible?
  2. The market is mostly people who do it themselves, so the demand is low?
  3. There is intense pressure from the Borg?

I'm generally surprised at how few firms sell pre-configured linux machines. Even desktops. And even fewer sell dual boot (Linux & Windows) machines. You'd think there would be a market for those.

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2 Responses to Linux On Name Brand Laptops (Not)

  1. cafl says:

    I think the writer is correct about finding preconfigured Linux laptops, but incorrect about the difficulty of putting Linux on a laptop yourself. At one time, this was true. However, in my experience Linux installs painlessly on laptops since about the RedHat 7.3 (and equivalent) era. Of course, “winmodems” are a problem. But for use at work or in a home with ethernet or wireless capability, the hardware support is just great. I use a dual-boot ThinkPad, and very seldom boot Windows.

    I really think the lack of preinstalled Linux is a combination of pressure from Microsoft (in the case of the large companies like Dell), and limited demand. I.e. there is a certain amount of trouble to be faced in supplying such machines, and not enough benefit to warrant going through it.

  2. To save money, space, and heat, laptops often use non-standard chips, and sometimes the Linux kernel doesn’t know how to talk to those chips. For example, my laptop is a Compaq Presario 710, and Linux runs fine on it with one exception–Linux can’t talk to the power-management system, so the battery runs down quickly. (There is a kernel patch that is alleged to work around the problem, but I haven’t tried it out.)

    The manufacturer’s profit margin on a desktop or laptop computer is extremely low, and the cost of handling two or three tech support calls wipes out that margin. If a major vendor sold desktops or laptops with Linux presintalled, they’d have to add a whole bunch of Linux specialists to their call center, and be prepared for a flood of calls from people who don’t know much about computers, but wanted to try out this new Linux thing, and now can’t configure X, or repartitioned their hard drive in some bizarre fashion, or misused one of the other powerful foot-shooting tools that Linux provides.

    I suspect this is the main reason why Dell et al. only preinstall Linux on servers. With servers, they get higher margins and more clueful customers.

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