[ 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.
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.
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 Dear, 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 PCs. 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 decisions. 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.
Dear Mister xxx, All communication from Dell to press is done by Communication Manager(s) (Marketing Dept.) I will and can not take a point in the Microsoft debate. I can tell you that Dell in order to give every OS supplier a fair part of the market has decided (but a correct time frame is not available yet) to offer both MS OS as Linux OS (through Red Hat). Any further information requests are to be directed to xxx, Marketing Manager BeLux.But refusing to sell PCs without an OS is still conditional sales, and thus forbidden by Belgian and European law.
Dell delivers computers with Windows as the operating system. But if the customer requests it, the coputer can be delivered with a different OS, or even without an OS. ... The discussion with the people from K.U.Leuven was mainly about the fact that they expected a discount because they didn't want a preinstalled OS. And that's not possible.So Windows is free of charge? Why did the option `downgrade OS' do exist a few months ago, for a discount of 2000 BEF (49.58 EUR)? Besides, a simple verification by `Het Belang Van Limburg' at Dell Customer's Service brought us the following:
Can I buy the computer without an operating System? No sir, unfortunately that's not possible. Dell always delivers an Operating System with al its computers.
We are bound to deliver an OS with our desktops. At the moment that OS is Win95, it's really the only possibility.
1. Dell designs, builds and sells fully integrated, fully tested computers systems. Our build-to-order process requires an OS in order to load/test applications and drivers; 2. We believe direct model is best able to understand and respond to trends in customer preference; our product offerings have changed with those preferences over time, will continue to do so going forward. 3. Customers can get a system without an OS provided they request this in writing and state they have a licensed version of an OS they are planning on installing (Possible on all productlines: OptiPlex - Precision -Latitude - PowerEdge). * Dell provides options on the OS on OptiPlex, Latitude and Workstations, most customers pick either Microsoft or Linux. * OptiPlex and Latitude are the most customizable corporate products but rarely do they ship without an OS. * Dell products need an OS to finish the testing and compatibility in factory in order to ensure quality. * Dell Servers can be shipped without an OS * For Home and Small Business customers, Dimension and Inspiron offer Microsoft OS. * For Home and Small Business customers, Dell is currently evaluating Linux. 4. Dell offers software choices on its products.
[ ... ] If you do not agree to the terms of this EULA, Manufacturer and Microsoft are unwilling to license the software product to you. In such event, you may not use or copy the software product and you should promptly contact Manufacturer for instructions on return of the product(s) for a refund.Based on this paragraph, we tried to get a refund for the Windows NT 4.0 software that was delivered with our PCs. But Dell refuses to take back Windows NT 4.0 in exchange for a refund, unless we also return the computer. Their motivation is that the computer and the OS were sold together.
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.