[ Nederlandse versie / Dutch Version ]

Original this page was located at the website of my previous employer, the Departement of Computer Science of K.U.Leuven.

Microsoft forces DELL to deliver Windows


Since the end of 1998, DELL has been selling PCs without an operating system (i.e. without Microsoft Windows) for a discount, to our satisfaction. Hence DELL was not aimed at on the international Windows Refund Day (February 15, 1999).

But recently this changed: it's no longer possible to buy a PC from DELL without Windows! This is a form of compulsory conditional sales, which is an infringement of both Belgian and European law.

Furthermore DELL admitted that it is bound by Microsoft to deliver a copy of Microsoft Windows with each PC sold (cfr. the emails shown below). Thus Microsoft abuses her (pseudo)monopoly.

This case not only concerns the users of the Linux operating system, but all users of other operating system. Besides Windows and Linux exist BeOS, BSD/OS, DOS, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, OS/2 Warp, SCO, Solaris, ... Some DELL configurations can be bought with Linux (Red Hat Linux), but that's not sufficient for us: many other Linux distributions exist: Caldera OpenLinux, Debian/GNU Linux, Slackware, SuSE, Turbolinux, ... Not everybody wants Red Hat Linux preinstalled on his/her PC. For example, at the Department of Computer Science of K.U.Leuven we install Linux (Debian/GNU Linux) ourselves, to obtain one easily manageable system.

Additional comments

Recently the press reported that Microsoft increased its profits. The main reason for this was the large demand for the operating system Windows. Considering the above situation this has a sour taste.


A few weeks ago, one of us sent the following email to DELL-Belgium (translated from Dutch):

Subject: downgrade for PC without OS


Usually we order our DELL PCs through the PC-shop, the official channel
through which DELL delivers computers to K.U.Leuven.
As usual, recently we ordered 2 DELL PCs at the PC-shop with an Operating
System downgrade, because we do not intend to run any form of Windows on these
To our surprise this downgrade is no longer possible, according to the
PC-shop. Is this true?
If yes, what's the reasoning behind this?
If no, what discount do we get for the downgrade?

Yours sincerely,

He received the following answer (translated from Dutch):

Subject: Re: downgrade for PC without OS

Dear xxx,

Unfortunately Dell is not strong enough to impose conditions on Microsoft.
The opposite is more likely to be true.

Hence Dell is bound to deliver an OS with each PC sold. At the moment
Dell Europe cannot/does not want to preinstall Linux on PCs as a standard
offer (which is possible for 2 types of Workstations with limited
configurations only : see www.dell.be Workstation 410 and 610), so a downgrade
is not possible. Some time ago a downgrade was permitted as a special favor,
which had required quite some lobbying inside Dell. Now our policy has become
less flexible and this is no longer possible.

I do like to negotiate with xxx and some IT-responsables at K.U.Leuven to
offer the installation of Linux as a Dell Plus procedure. For this we need to
settle on a few limited PC configurations and on a minimum amount of PCs (50 to
100 per 3 to 6 months).

I already sent this information to other K.U.Leuven - Linux users.

I hope this clears up our case.

Yours sincerely

Then we sent the following mail (translated from Dutch), signed by several employees of K.U.Leuven (among which professors and other prominent people):

Subject: Re: downgrade for PC without OS

Dear Sir xxx,

During the last few weeks several Linux-users at K.U.Leuven have contacted you
w.r.t. the policy of DELL to (no longer) sell PCs without OS. Obviously this
is a decision we regret, but at the same time we respect DELLs strategic

We do want to inform you of the following fact: you know for sure that
Microsoft is involved in a legal case with the U.S. Department of Justice. One
of the charges is that Microsoft uses monopolistic practices, like putting
pressure on computer suppliers, including Dell. Perhaps you do not realize
this, but the following statement (made by you in an email to one of us),
could influence this strongly:

> Unfortunately Dell is not strong enough to impose conditions on Microsoft.
> The opposite is more likely to be true.
> Hence Dell is bound to deliver an OS with each PC sold.

If this statement is in accordance with the truth, then Dell may be
(undeserved) in troubles. We still have to await the judgement in the case
against Microsoft, but such a requirement made by Microsoft w.r.t. Dell would
undermine the position of Microsoft in this case.
Furthermore European law explicitly forbids compulsory conditional sales. In
our opinion, the compulsory sale of PCs with Microsoft Windows is a serious
infringement of this law.

If this statement is not true, then we see no reasons at all why you
wouldn't offer PCs without an OS. If your statement is true, we would like
to spread it. Do you object against that?

Please do not consider this message as an offensive act, but merely as a
communication from concerned customers.

Yours sincerely,

We did not receive any reactions to this message. That's why we expose it to the public.


August 12, 1999

August 17, 1999

August 18, 1999

August 19, 1999

August 20, 1999

August 24, 1999

August 30, 1999


Dell profiles itself as a flexible computer manufacturer: the customer places an order, and Dell manufactures a machine tailored to the customer's needs. But it looks like there exists one unwritten rule that cannot be changed: whether a PC comes with a version of Microsoft Windows or not, the customer always pays the same. Because a separate Windows 98 license costs 177 EUR (excl. VAT) in a computer retail shop, we find it hard to believe that we didn't pay for an (unwanted) Windows license.

This page is maintained by Geert Uytterhoeven.
$Date: 2006-01-25 21:24:26 $