Ultimately, Rob Enderle, founder and president of the Enderle Group, believes that Dell's success in the initiative could alter the PC desktop landscape as we know it, while failure could set the progression of Linux onto the desktop back five years or more.
Last month, users of Dell's IdeaStorm website, where the company solicits feedback and asks for suggestions, took part in an online poll in which it asked users what they would do on Linux computers. The survey attracted more than 100,000 respondents and Dell eventually agreed to offer Linux as an option on its units.
"With any new trend eventually someone gets it right, and that someone could be Dell," said Enderle. But he warned: "This could have major implications regardless of whether it succeeds or fails, and the odds are currently - based on past history - more in line with failure than success."
Among Enderle's reasons why Dell is likely to succeed is the fact that the PC manufacturer needs to build its market share, and desktop Linux could help meet this objective. With that critical goal in mind, Enderle speculates that Dell might put substantial marketing and support resources behind desktop Linux. Such a move, he believes, could make it an acceptable gamble for businesses that would not accept the risk of buying similar offerings from smaller vendors.
However, Enderle cautioned that Linux users, by their nature, tend to buy at the lowest price points. "If Dell cannot get them to accept prices that provide acceptable margins, or change their buying habits to make them upsell targets for products like business productivity and security software, the experiment is doomed," he said.
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