Dell Listens to Customers — now will they take action?

The story of Dell and Linux is a long and complicated one. In the past, Dell has gone back and forth, for a brief time allowing you to purchase a computer without windows (presumably so you can install Linux on it at home), but mostly (and most recently) not.

Since being outpaced by HP in total sales, and knocked down from it’s #1 spot in new computer sales, Dell has launched IdeaStorm, a website where users can suggest ways for Dell to make money better cater to its customers. This is actually a great site. You can create suggestions, and then vote on which suggestions you think are the best. With over 50,000 people voting so far, Dell gets a pretty good idea of what people are interested in, and can tune their product line accordingly.

Now here is the most interesting part; 4 out of the the top 5 suggestions are to load Open Source software on shipping Dell computers:

  1. Provide a Linux Multiboot option
  2. Provide pre-installed Open Office
  3. Provide Linux Singleboot for laptops
  4. Ship with no OS
  5. Install Firefox as the default web browser

While this feedback does show how far Linux and other open source software has come in public awareness in the past few years, it should also come as a wakeup call to computer manufacturer: Try providing software to users that they actually want.

It’s worth noting that the next most-popular feedback Dell received is to stop pre-loading new computers with “crap-ware.” This is something that all current computer manufacturers are guilty of today, and if you’ve bought a new computer in the past few years you know what it means.

I don’t care how hip desktop search is in the media — I’ve never (not even once) had the need for Google Desktop. Nor for any other program that wants to run in my system tray, or add menubars to my web browsers. The only thing these programs do is slow down my [brand new] computer, so it’s slow even before I install anything.

Dell (et all), if I want to install RealPlayer — I will! Besides the fact that it provides no useful function, I do not buy a computer so that you can pre-sell it’s hard disk to software vendors.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t let the dealer put their stickers on my car when I buy one either.

World of Warcraft (oh no!)

I recently received a gift of two copies of World of Warcraft. I had been trying to stay away from MMORPG games because once I start playing a game I tend to get sucked into it until I beat it. Since a MMORPG has no ending, you can see how this would be a bad situation.

Of course, I have played demos of some of them anyway, but I’ve been pretty unimpressed with the gameplay in most of them. It tends to be extremely repetitious. Unfortunately, World of Warcraft doesn’t fall into that category. The game is extremely entertaining. Combined with the fact that I got 2 copies — and therefore, I’ve been playing with my wife too — this is definately something that’s a fun way to pass the time. A lot of time. In fact, any extra time that you might have available, and then some.

World of Warcraft is so far the best MMORPG I’ve tried. I won’t go into too much detail as there are already a plethora of reviews on the Internet. It seems to have enough built-in quests to keep you busy even if you played it by yourself as if it were a single-player role-playing game. There are literally two continents worth of areas to explore in the game, so you won’t be running out of things to do there in any reasonable time frame.The multiplayer is well thought-out, and definitely fun. The only thing that is missing (now that I’ve spent a lot of time playing on Xbox Live) is that you can’t actually talk to other players using a microphone. This seems a significant shortcoming in a game that is centered around socialization and human interaction.

Currently, my character is only on level 6, which constitutes about 4 hours of play so far. Once I’ve spent more time with the game, I’ll follow up with some more long-term impressions.