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Dell Offers Ubuntu, What About OpenOffice?

Due to an outpouring of popular demand through its IdeaStorm website, Dell came to realize that a large number of people would like to purchase Ubuntu preinstalled on new computers. Breaking its long-held “Windows or die” stance, Dell went forward and made it available. Great work, Dell! (See the page for all IdeaStorm-generated ideas they have implemented.)

Now, there are some caveats. Only a few systems are available, it’s only available in the US right now, and Dell includes some language to dissuade unsavvy users from making the Ubuntu choice. These issues are fine in the short term, though, especially if you consider this a proof of concept experiment for the company.

However, one of the other top ideas on Dell’s IdeaStorm website was to preinstall OpenOffice (and Firefox, and some other FOSS apps) on the Windows boxes Dell sells. From a simple end user standpoint, this option would benefit a larger number of Dell customers: it’s easier for a user to learn new desktop applications than to switch OSes entirely, it would be easier to find on the website when purchasing a new computer, and it’s easier for a user to see that OpenOffice might have a cost of $0 in Dell’s online store, but if he or she chose Microsoft Office from that same dropdown menu, another $150 or more will be added to his or her system’s final price.

Simply put, OpenOffice preinstalls would save more customers more money. It would probably quickly show that most users don’t need Microsoft Office at all. However, there’s at least one company that does not want that to become apparent. I wonder if Microsoft would be above putting pressure on Dell to block this idea? Probably not.

OpenOffice would obviously benefit through marketshare increases if Dell were to offer it as a preinstalled option. But the primary benefit would be to new users–those who don’t even know it exists right now, but will be willing to try it when cost and convenience factors make it easily available to them.

According to the IdeaStorm website, pre-installed OpenOffice is “Under Consideration,” which appears to be just below “Coming Soon” in their hierarchy of possible implementation. Let’s hope it moves to “Already Offered” soon!

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