How to buy a Dell WITHOUT windows


I was asked by a friend to get a Fedora CD to her and her friend so that their children can learn to use Linux.  I suggested that I will help by shipping the Live CDs as well as spending some time (along with my 2 sons) to teach their sons how to use Linux.

Then the request came back asking where can they get a new laptop without Windows and that prompted my revisiting the Dell.com website to see if I can get a machine without ‘oze.I have a Dell Vostro V13 N-series (which came with Ubuntu preinstalled, the “N” meaning “No Windows”). So, that was what I was looking out in the dell.com site.  Search as I might, nothing showed up.  It’s amazing how well hidden the n-series offerings are.  I am very sure Microsoft’s marketing muscle is squarely behind it. 

Now, since I know that there is such as thing as a N-series laptop, I clicked on Dell.com’s “Live Chat” button and the following is the transcript of what happened. I’ve replaced the Dell person’s name with “Dell Rep”.
16:35:51 Customer harish pillay
Initial Question/Comment: h.pillay@Ieee.org
16:35:56 System System
You are now being connected to an agent. Thank you for using Dell Chat
16:35:56 System System
Connected with Dell Rep
16:36:01 Agent Dell Rep
Welcome to Dell Sales Chat. My name is Dell Rep. I’ll be your personal sales agent. How may I assist you. If you proceed to place your order online, please indicate my name, Dell Rep, as your sales representative so that I’ll be able to track your order for you.
16:36:22 Customer harish pillay
Hi, Dell Rep. Can you point me to where I can get the n-series vostro v13?
16:36:33 Customer harish pillay
i do not want to buy windows for the machine.
16:37:01 Agent Dell Rep
we do not offer n-series of the Dell system online
16:37:07 Customer harish pillay
why?
16:37:24 Customer harish pillay
does microsoft restrict sales of n-series online?
16:37:56 Agent Dell Rep
i’m not too sure on that but V13 has being replaced by the V130
16:38:23 Customer harish pillay
ok, so I would like to buy a v130 without an OS (I will settle for freedos).
16:38:36 Customer harish pillay
i prefer the n-series v-130 then.
16:39:51 Agent Dell Rep
the V130 is not offering any Free DOS version at the moment
16:40:01 Agent Dell Rep
let me check on the availability of the V13
16:40:13 Agent Dell Rep
we do offer Free DOS offline
16:40:50 Customer harish pillay
it does not matter if it has freedos or fedora (or even ubuntu). i want to buy the machine without any microsoft os.
16:41:07 Agent Dell Rep
any particular specifications on your mind?
16:41:47 Customer harish pillay
i will be running Fedora and/or Red Hat Enterprise Linux on them. I have the apps taken care of already.
16:42:22 Agent Dell Rep
any specific hardware requirement
16:42:51 Customer harish pillay
Why don’t you focus on asking about the OS? the hardware is OK as it is.
16:43:25 Customer harish pillay
64-bit, 8G would be nice, but 4G RAM is OK. USB (3.0 would be nice), bluetooth, wifi.
16:43:55 Agent Dell Rep
please note that you may find difficulties for the correct drivers as we have not tested on the compatibility of the drivers with the OS you intend to install
16:44:13 Customer harish pillay
not that you support windoze drivers anyway.
16:44:17 Agent Dell Rep
any other hardware requirement
16:44:33 Customer harish pillay
none
16:44:52 Agent Dell Rep
also is this purchase are for your company or personal?
16:45:05 Customer harish pillay
does it matter?
16:45:27 Agent Dell Rep
i need to generate the quotation for you
16:45:51 Customer harish pillay
Intel Corporation WiFi Link 5100, Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller,
16:46:19 Customer harish pillay
is there a price difference if the quote was for corporate vs consumer?
16:47:02 Agent Dell Rep
there’s no difference unless your company has a specific contract with Dell
16:47:40 Customer harish pillay
fair enough. give me the consumer quote first.
16:48:32 Agent Dell Rep
can i have your full legal name, address as well as your contact no
16:49:04 Customer harish pillay
:-). harish pillay, address
16:50:27 Agent Dell Rep
alright, let me work the quotation and emailed it to you?
16:50:40 Customer harish pillay
ok. h.pillay@ieee.org
16:50:47 Agent Dell Rep
noted
16:52:22 Customer harish pillay
so are we done or what?
16:52:42 Agent Dell Rep
unless you’ve others to add.
16:53:04 Customer harish pillay
so the quote will be without windows?
16:53:12 Agent Dell Rep
yes
16:55:26 Customer harish pillay
that’s fine. can you provide me with the quote that shows with and without windows?
16:55:37 Customer harish pillay
i want to know the difference.
16:55:42 Agent Dell Rep
alright
16:55:46 Customer harish pillay
not that i want windows.
16:56:50 Customer harish pillay
are you mailing the quote now?
16:57:17 Agent Dell Rep
give me about 5 mins and i shall be able to send it to you
16:57:56 Customer harish pillay
ok thanks. i will be keeping this chat transcript and blanking out your name.
16:58:12 Agent Dell Rep
thanks
16:58:57 Customer harish pillay
the reason for keeping the chat transcript is so that I can post this to my blog stating that there is a way to buy non-windows Dell machines but one has to ask for it.
16:59:26 Customer harish pillay
so, keeping your name off the transcript is key as it is not you but your organization that is at fault here.
16:59:32 Agent Dell Rep
we do have regular request for n-series of system from time by time
17:00:20 Agent Dell Rep
we do not offer is sometimes to avoid misunderstanding from certain customers where they look for the cheapest system and only to find out that no OS was installed
17:00:33 Customer harish pillay
and I want to make it a permanent request and something that I can find from your online catalog. As long as it does not appear, I think Dell is doing the whole world a disservice and pandering to Microsoft’s monopolistic heavyhand.
17:00:33 Agent Dell Rep
we had that quite a lot previously
17:00:56 Agent Dell Rep
that’s the reason we choose to offer all with the OS preinstalled
17:01:00 Customer harish pillay
and if you explain to people, they will understand.
17:01:26 Agent Dell Rep
not all customer are as understanding as you
17:01:39 Customer harish pillay
so long as dell hides the info (or makes it hard to find), these misunderstandings can happen.
17:02:07 Agent Dell Rep
we have lots of customer who choose the cheapest and only to find out that no OS is installed
17:02:57 Agent Dell Rep
we don’t really hide the info as long as a customer request for it, we’ll be able to offer
17:03:22 Agent Dell Rep
we just limit them options online to avoid misunderstanding
17:03:37 Agent Dell Rep
anyway perhaps we may work out something in future
17:17:37 Agent Dell Rep
i’ve just emailed both quotation to you. could you please check and revert
17:23:28 Agent Dell Rep
Is there anything else I may assist you? If there’s no further assistance required, you may email me at DELL REP @dell.com shall you need further assistance / clarifications.
17:32:49 System System
The session has ended!
I have received a quotation for the Dell Vostro V13 and here are the numbers:
a) S$887.15 for the N-series
b) S$1045.79 for the same machine with ‘doze.
Hardware: Vostro V13 System Base (SU7300)Intel® Core?2 Duo Processor SU7300 (1.3GHz, 3M L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB) ULV, 13.3HDF Anti-glare LED LCD panel with camera, 4GB (1X4G) DDR3-1066MHz SDRAM, 1 DIMM500GB* Hard Drive, 7200 RPM, 6-cell Lithium Ion Sealed 30Whr Battery, Integrated Graphic CardIntel(R) Wireless Network Card 5100 (802.11a/g/n)Dell Wireless 365 Bluetooth ModuleInternal Dell(TM) Keyboard (English).
So, the Windows-tax is S$158.64. Now you know.
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50 comments

  1. You forgot to clear out the name of the rep a few times:

    “please indicate my name, ****+chat, as your sales representative”

    “**** alright”
    “**** Is there anything else I may assist you?”

    I suppressed the name, anyway feel free to delete this comment :)

  2. Thanks. I’ve updated it. I was working on the draft and I thought I did a search and replace. Looks like that one entry was left in because it did not meet the S&R criteria. Sigh.

  3. I called and placed an order rather than on line. I got my system as I wanted, without a default Windows installation, and didn’t really have any trouble here. The system did have Ubuntu preinstalled.

      1. I guess that I missed the S$ vs US$. Thanks for pointing that out. Even so, the $689 USD price is only 885 SGD according to the currency site you gave me, so there really is no Microsoft tax at all.

  4. Good eye opener. I didn’t know about this, recently purchased Lenovo Thinkpad with Win 7. I needed Windows b’cos some of the applications i use is Windows only for eg: Lotus Domino Desginer plus few others.

    But will be seeing FOSS from now, thanks for the blog. I have enjoyed reading it. Please continue. We both do have some common areas like SOE topic, i will comment in your blog anyway :)

    1. So, what about the SOE fiasco? That itself is a clear example of how M$ has been able to unfairly win the deal. Now the SG government will end up paying HP/EDS a tonne of money to maintain a bunch of broken systems. The horror stories I hear about how bad the SOE rollout has been is indeed disappointing. Folks in government now have their own machines to get real work done because the SOE systems are horribly broken.

      1. What i heard it’s a big loss even for HP/EDS and they are not able to make money out of it. Originally applications are not included in the tender or rather it’s not clearly specified and it was added at a later stage but without much additional cost to SG government. Hence it seems that the vendors are also making loss. I had written a entry some time ago on this and included here for reference.

        http://senthilkumars.blogspot.com/2010/04/soeasy-is-not-so-easy.html

        Quite some time ago, i read your blog in the LiveJournal about SOE and coincidentally i saw you as a friend of Jimmy Kwang from IBM and connected with you in FB and it continues from there.

  5. How would one go about ordering an HP or Acer without Windows pre-installed? I took a two minute look on HP.com and didn’t notice Free DOS or Linux offerings. There might be an option on their website, but I didn’t see it on a cursory look. It would be interesting to see the same experience documented for other OEM’s besides Dell.

  6. We have no such problems in Ukraine. Almost all Dell and Lenovo computers are supplied without operational system, so we use them for linux and corporate windows installations. My personal Dell Vostro 1310 working with Fedora Core.

  7. I actually understand where this guy is coming from, with his stated position on why the company doesn’t offer those types of laptops for sale on the website, other than by direct asking. Even if you list an item as not having an OS, if it specifically says “Does not have an operating system, must be bought separately”, some people will still not understand. Some people, when asked, don’t even know what a web browser is. Anyone looking for a laptop without an OS pre-installed is likely smart enough to use the live chat to get what they want.

    One other thing:

    Definitions of revert on the Web:

    go back to a previous state; “We reverted to the old rules”
    undergo reversion, as in a mutation

    Why do people always use “revert” in regards to replying to an email in Singapore? That’s not the right word for it.

    1. i will agree that the Dell Rep handled this the right way. Having said that, it is important that Dell recognizes that there are customers who are willing to take the extra step and they should cater for them online (instead of via a chat option). That kind of engagement will allay the notion that Microsoft is behind this.

      The use of “revert” is fairly common in Singapore/Malaysia. “To revert” is to get back. Whether you get back to the person via email, phone or some other form is still getting back. Perhaps it is a Britishism that continues to manifest itself.

      1. I think they probably found that the benefit of openness in this regard was outweighed by the number of non-tech saavy people who called the help line saying:

        “Nothing happens when I start my new laptop. Why?”

        Think of your mother or father, who may not know much about computers. Perhaps your grandmother or grandfather. All they know is that it’s cheap and it has lots of big numbers, and bigger is better right? Then imagine tech reps trying to explain what an OS is, and how to install one to someone who doesn’t know the difference between RAM and a HDD.

        I think if they really didn’t want to sell products without an OS, they wouldn’t do it at all, via Live Chat, or at the roadshows they usually set up at the malls. To me, the complete lack of an option for a non-Windows unit would be more of an indicator that they had some tie up with Microsoft. I saw, quite often, units prominently displayed at roadshows that were running Ubuntu.

        As for revert, I know the meaning that Singaporeans attribute to it, but I included the dictionary definition to show that it was being used wrongly. Revert means to return something to its original state. You can’t change an email you receive back it’s original state. It’s not an action that can be performed on it. The original is on the sender’s account and nothing you can do to an email can turn it into the original. Replying doesn’t change it back to the original email. There’s nothing wrong with it. This is just an instance where Singaporeans have adapted the English language to suit themselves. It’s just a quirk that always makes me shake my head when I see it.

      2. Thanks, Brad. I think you are probably right in saying that they might not be in cahoots with Microsoft, but then again, I have yet to see a Dell on display anywhere in Singapore that has any Linux showing (Ubuntu, Fedora etc).

        You point about “revert” is noted. Just as Singaporeans misuse the word “stay” to mean “live” as in “where do you stay?” when it should be “where do you live?”, perhaps “revert” has morphed into meaning “to get back” as opposed to “to return to pervious state”.

  8. Am I the only one who thinks that the chat is fake? I mean, people that assit clients are recorded by supervisors for evaluation with the client, and I dont think that some answers would be sayed by the sales agent. MHO

    1. And why would this be a fake? I’ve bought N-series laptops from Dell for a long time and that was the reason to go back to Dell.com to look for it. Not finding the option, and seeing the chat option available, I got into the chat.

      Anyway, you are welcome to keep your opinion.

      1. Just saying, because of the way that the Sales Agent were replying you. I think its true that Dell may hide the FreeDOS option for buyers. But I think that the Sales Agent should have replied different, more formally to me.

  9. Thanks for posting. I bought a Dell XPS preloaded with Ubuntu three years ago and loved it. I will be in the market for a replacement in January. When I went to Dell’s site to search for a replacement no Ubuntu machines could be found. I chatted with a Dell rep who told me they don’t sell them any more.

    Good to know I can get a laptop sans Windows, even if I have to install the OS myself.

  10. I wish I knew about this when I bought my last Dell desktop. I ended up giving the Vista cd to a friend after I installed Linux.

  11. Hi harish,

    I got a N-series laptop in India. As you have mentioned there is no way to buy N-series laptop online. They told me that only “corporate” customers can buy a N-series laptop here in India. My friend has a company, I bought Dell vostro 3500 N billing on behalf of his company.

  12. Harish,

    You might just want to check out mucro.asia and sgcubehub.com, two sites that offer select models of laptops without OS installed. Only thing is that many of these have NVIDIA graphic cards that I don’t like – crappy proprietary drivers and little respect for the FOSS community esp. in interactions for documentation.

  13. Can I buy a Dell Alien Ware laptop computer without Windows 7 then go to Walmart and buy my Windows 7 or borrow a copy from a friend. It should work just fine right.

  14. This is a good post. Im trying to buy XPS 8500, do you think i can get it without windoz and it’s friends ?

  15. I tried to ask for the price of the XPS14 without windows on the french DELL website but they denied it saying that only the XPS13 was provided with Ubuntu … Maybe I didn’t get the right representative, maybe I didn’t say the right thing, maybe they have different policies in different countries … Anyways I finally told them they lost a customer …

      1. You’re welcome, thank you for sharing in the first place.
        I’m actually willing to email the CEO since I’m having such a hard time finding an OS-less laptop offer that suits me, anything to encourage manufacturers to widen such offers. I’m even more disapointed with DELL since I’m currently using one of their Inspiron which I bought with Ubuntu pre-installed a few years ago, I really don’t get why they would restrict it to just one model now … This being said, is DELL CEO’s email address a public thing ? Do you know it ? Do you know where I can find it ?

  16. Dell no longer offers Linux on desktops nor FreeDOS. I just tried to purchase one and I talked to an agent and he said that Dell doesn’t offer this anymore. He said “Its the marketing dept that does the changes.” Boooo!

    1. I think they are pulling a fast one. If you say that if they don’t make that available, you’ll just walk away, it might be sufficient for them to agree. The long and filthy hand of Microsoft is all over this. It’s a pity.

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