Dell Should Buy Fedora To Ensure Relevancy In Future

by James R. Stoup Mar 03, 2008

Microsoft’s recent attempt to purchase Yahoo got me thinking about the future of the industry as a whole. From Microsoft’s perspective, buying Yahoo is more about planning for the future than looking for an immediate gain. And even though I think buying Yahoo would be an incredibly stupid move, I applaud Microsoft for at least trying to plan ahead. Speaking of the future, the road ahead looks quite bleak for Dell. And sadly for them, I can’t imagine a future in which their fortunes improve to any measurable degree.

The inherent problem with Dell is that they are a company with a single strategy for selling a single product, namely to sell the cheapest computers. Now, I grant you that not too many years ago this was a great plan. If you recall, Dell was making money hand over fist as computers made inroads in virtually every available market. But oh how things have changed. In fact, things have changed so much that if Dell ended up going out of business (or being bought out by another company) in the next 10 years I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

Since Dell’s business model is to sell computers (specifically computers loaded with Windows), if the computer market tanks (or changes in some fundamental way), then they suffer. In fact, we have been watching this happen for the last couple of years. The market has slowed a bit and Dell’s rivals have begun to eat into its market share. And if this wasn’t bad enough, Dell faces the very daunting realization that if they can’t sell computers, then they can’t stay in business. Let me clarify that. If IBM stopped making computers (oh wait, they did) then they could still remain in business. If HP decided to stop selling PCs, they could always make a living selling printers. Apple could stop selling machines and transition to a media hardware and content company. And of course Sony has so many interests that they are in no danger of dying completely. Only Dell is entirely dependent on selling computers to remain in business. And what is worse, they (realistically) can only do business selling Windows machines.

So, what would happen if Microsoft were to release a new operating system and it sucked horribly? (You will note that I didn’t bother putting a link in here because Googling “vista sucks” brings up close to half a millions hits.) Well, Dell would start to feel the pinch as customers started to migrate to Apple. And now, finally, we have come to the point of all this. Here it is, the big question: What action can Dell take to remain in business?

It is really a hard question because Dell doesn’t have anything else to build on. They don’t sell MP3 players (thankfully that experiment was taken out behind the barn and shot), they don’t sell music, they don’t sell software, they don’t sell peripherals, they don’t sell printers, and they don’t offer any useful services. This means that to branch out into a new direction they will either have to start spending a lot more on R&D, or they will have to go out and buy some smaller company (if I thought for a moment that it would get approval from the government, I would suggest Microsoft just buy Dell and try their hand at hardware like Apple) and incorporate them into the company as a separate division. But before they go out shopping, it would probably be a good idea to get a handle on what kind of business they want to turn into. Here is my suggestion, go buy Red Hat and become the Linux version of Apple.

The goal here is to make great software that sells your hardware. Of course, it would also help if Dell hired some decent designers because they have now reached the point of creating machines so devoid of character they have actually begun to make HP’s machines look sexy in comparison. This is no small feat, I assure you. Getting back on track, if Dell were to buy Fedora it would put them in conflict with Microsoft; however, at the rate things are going, Microsoft is going to have some serious problems in the coming years as well. And so it would probably behoove Dell to have a backup plan just in case this whole “hitch our wagon to Microsoft’s star” approach doesn’t turn out too well.

Buying Red Hat gives Dell a chance to enter the software market with a strong presence and would allow them to (conceivably) remake their company into something with a future. It would be hard, and they would definitely need more inspired leadership than that of Mr. Dell, but the possibility exists.


  • The fun thing about Linux is that they don’t have to buy a distro, they could just hire smart developers and roll their own, or use Fedora, or one of the many others. In fact, they already do. The advantage of ‘owning’ a Linux distribution is fairly limited. Instead, they can invest in solid Linux hardware compatibility with their boxes (which they already do, to a certain extent) and mark certain distributions as preferred (the way they sell Ubuntu pre-loaded).

    Devanshu Mehta had this to say on Mar 03, 2008 Posts: 108
  • Wow.  I wish I could count the number of inaccuracies in your “article” (so I guess I will!). 

    Now, I like Apple just as much as most other people on here - but I have to call a spade, a spade—and you are just wrong on several things. 

    First, Dell does sell printers.  They make their own printers. will take you there.  They make lasers and inkjets. 

    Second - they do Sell peripherals.  In fact, tons of them.  I actually bought my Nikon D40 from them a few months back.  And they have Dell brand peripherals as well.  Like, Docking stations, bluetooth keyboards and mice, monitors, wireless adapters, etc.

    Third - they do have well designed and nice notebooks.  Have you actually looked at the M1330 or the M1530?  Those are two very sexy Dell notebooks.  I’m sure its a matter of taste but I’d take those new designs over the 2 or 3 year old macbook pro designs.  Talk about stale!

    Fourth - they do have useful services.  Like at work we have some Dells and they have this dellconnect service in which they fix your Dell products online for free by connecting to your computer.  In fact - they have a whole section of their website dedicated to the services they offer.  They offer training, installation, online backup services (in addition to their server and tape backup units they sell).

    I just think before you go spouting off articles on here you should probably get your facts straight.

    PuckOTG22 had this to say on Mar 03, 2008 Posts: 2
  • If Dell owned a commercial distro and sold it on their machines, they’d be doing just what Sun do with their new Core based workstations. I can get a quad core Ultra24 with Solaris 10 pre-installed for a similar price to a dell machine equipped with Ubuntu, and the Sun is a hell of a lot more solid. In fact, I’m debating buying one to keep my Quad G5 company.

    I wonder if Dell could keep up by doing similar? It would require world class support, and a similar hardware/OS compatibility ethos to Sun and Apple because, essentially, that’s all Sun offer uniquely.

    Oh, and PuckOTG22 is correct. Do some research first. Fedora is the free variation. To be their own, they’d have to buy Red Hat itself.

    evilcat had this to say on Mar 03, 2008 Posts: 66
  • PuckOTG22

    “First, Dell does sell printers.  They make their own printers. will take you there.  They make lasers and inkjets.”

    Dell may sell printers but they do not make them, they are merely re-branded from other manufacturers!

    “Second - they do Sell peripherals.  In fact, tons of them.  I actually bought my Nikon D40 from them a few months back.  And they have Dell brand peripherals as well.  Like, Docking stations, bluetooth keyboards and mice, monitors, wireless adapters, etc.”

    Again, Dell don’t make the Nikon D40.
    Also, all those dell branded products aren’t going to be much good if they have no computers to run them on

    Best case scenario they turn into logitech

    Habadasher had this to say on Mar 03, 2008 Posts: 20
  • I just think before you go spouting off articles on here you should probably get your facts straight.

    Ha ha.  I loved the link to all those Dell-branded printers that Dell (according to James) doesn’t make or sell!  Classic.

    I wish I had a dollar for ever Apple-echo-chamber article based on their perception of PCs from 10 years ago - which is probably the last time James visited the Dell website.  I would actually be able to afford that Macbook Air!

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 03, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • Dell is selling a commodity product that is uninspiring and “Dull.” But, it’s functional and cheap. Most big companies, like the one I work for, only care about two things in a computer. Compatibility, and price. Dell is like the companies that make cardboard cartons. It’s not very sexy, but it’s a darn good living.

    flyboy had this to say on Mar 03, 2008 Posts: 30
  • I really enjoyed my visit to this website. Comments from

    nonagarg had this to say on Mar 04, 2008 Posts: 1
  • Even if James was completely right on the facts—which he isn’t (Dell monitors anyone?) I do not buy the conclusion that Dell is doomed and/or buying a Linux company would be beneficial in any way to the problems James thinks he sees in Dell.

    I’ll note several things. Jumping around blaming the Vista terribleness as hurting, nee mortally wounding Dell is as odd claim to make given that Hewlett Packard had a good quarter selling computers with that very same Windows Vista that “suck[s] horribly”. Is this some sort of conditional suck that affects some manufacturers and not others?

    Anyway, the premise here is that Dell’s problem is that they don’t have any good software to convince people to buy Dell over HP. Even sidestepping the flaw I pointed out earlier (HP is successful with Vista), I do not see how Linux helps that at all. The Linux ecosystem is still an immature infant in comparison to Windows or even OS X. (Those two OSes have had 20+ years to build their application stable, and they began when the market was much more fluid and dynamic. Linux had half that time, during which the market had already decided between the two incumbents, Apple and Microsoft.) An analog would be encouraging someone to move out of an apartment with bad plumbing over to a frame of a house where electricity and plumbing is in the process of being installed.)

    SterlingNorth had this to say on Mar 04, 2008 Posts: 121
  • The point is, you said they didn’t sell peripherals,
    clearly they do. Be gracious and admit you were wrong.

    simo66 had this to say on Mar 04, 2008 Posts: 78
  • Also, in regards to the article, Dell is not a software company, they need to figure out a way to make hardware work for them. I mean they might as well buy steel-mills or pork futures.

    simo66 had this to say on Mar 04, 2008 Posts: 78
  • I think its funny people like habadasher has said “Dell may sell printers but they do not make them, they are merely re-branded from other manufacturers!” 

    I don’t know if that is true or not.  I think it used to be when they first got in but they actually are winning lots of awards for their printers from what I’ve seen and if they were just re-brands - wouldn’t those awards apply to those printers too - yet they weren’t in there.  So, I’ll claim ignorance on that topic - but I don’t think that is entirely accurate.

    But saying that something is just a rebrand or not made by that company that sells it is just ignorant.  Did you know that Dell and HP sell the same monitor?  The Apple Cinema display and Dell 2407 (now the 2408) use the same panel from samsung?  The bezel is different on the Apple making it only 23” where its 24 on the Dell.  Yup - same exact panel.

    The panels on the Apples and Dell notebooks are the same in some instances.  Why?  Because there are only a few mfg’s of LCD glass in the world.

    Did you also know that Apple DESIGNS the Ipod but has another company Manufacture them for them?  Read the back of your Ipod some day - “Designed in California - made in China” 

    The idea that Dell has nothing else to offer than some dull grey boxes hasn’t been to in probably about 5 years or so.  If you want to use the old argument that they don’t make some of their own products - neither does apple.  Or HP. 

    And the argument that Dell doesn’t make some of the peripherals they sell as a reason for Dell possibly failing in the future—uhm…has anyone heard of or  They do TONS of peripherals business and they don’t make a single computer they sell.  And I think they do pretty well for themselves.

    PuckOTG22 had this to say on Mar 04, 2008 Posts: 2
  • Note: James never said that Dell doesn’t make printers/peripherals. That was said by commenter Habadasher, in apparent defense of James. Habadasher would be right, but that’s irrelevant to the argument. James actually said Dell doesn’t sell those things, and yes James would be wrong. Which is remarkable given how many Mac users who want a Cinema Display monitor, but not at “Cinema Display” prices will frequently buy the similar monitor from Dell. So, his first claim is wrong. James second claim is that Vista is so bad an OS that it is the cause of Dell’s fortunes. That’s less cut-and-dried, but given that Dell is losing share to HP, who is growing their sales would seem to argue against claim 2.

    Now, since the assumptions behind James suggestions have been shown to be built on a shaky foundation, one can perhaps simply dismiss the suggestion. If the doctor’s diagnosis of cancer is in error, then I probably don’t need radiation therapy. But still, let’s ask what Dell could possibly gain from a purchase of Red Hat. I don’t see much. The operating system itself, Linux, can be freely taken and distributed without having to buy the company. Which is what they have done with Ubuntu Linux. Red Hat is in essence a consulting firm, not a software company. They essentially consult on the use of open source technologies. Dell is famous for it’s customer support collapse, so it may not be the best time for Dell to take up new support duties while they are busy fixing the problems they already have.

    Likewise, Apple is more of a consumer electronics company than a pure software company.  Software is but one component in their strategy of making appliance-widgets. All of their decisions make for better appliances—focusing on design and ease of use; supplying most, if not all, of the accessories and applications for their products (like how radio and TV manufacturers had to sponsor the production of their own shows in the beginning of broadcasting); appealing to the sense of couture rather than on spec.

    Ironically, Dell is doing more of what I just described, which in the end is pushing them to emulate more of Apple’s strengths. Honestly, I think James’ suggestion would be far more disastrous to Dell.

    SterlingNorth had this to say on Mar 05, 2008 Posts: 121
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