Dell has begun to poll potential customers about their software preferences as part of an effort by the struggling PC vendor to meet demand t for desktops and notebooks that run on Linux instead of Windows.
Dell posted the survey on a company blog, asking PC users to choose between Linux flavours such as Fedora and Ubuntu, and to pick more general choices such as notebooks versus desktops, high-end models versus value models and telephone-based support versus community-based support.
The survey also asks whether the computer would be for home or office use, as well as what kinds of activities it would be used for, including basic productivity, e-mail, Web browsing, gaming, photo editing, music, video editing and software development. The survey also asks whether users want support through e-mail and online forums from Dell, fee-based phone support or support from the open source community.
The company plans to collect votes until 23 March and will then use the feedback to begin selling Linux-based PCs. Dell already uses Linux in certain server models.
"Taking a few minutes to complete this survey will help us define our forthcoming Linux-based system offerings," said Dell software architect Matt Domsch in his blog posting. "We'll take some time to analyse your feedback and work to provide the platforms and options you choose."
Michael Dell stimulated the demand for Linux in February, shortly after he returned as CEO. Previous chief executive Kevin Rollins resigned in January as the company began to flounder during a series of problems, from falling earnings reports to delayed financial filings, an accounting investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and an investor lawsuit.
As part of his campaign to help the company renew its profits and regain market share from Hewlett-Packard, Michael Dell launched a company blog to collect customer feedback. Users immediately filled the blog with requests for an alternative to Microsoft's Windows Vista OS and Office suite, such as the Linux OS and OpenOffice productivity tools.
On 23 February, Dell announced it will work with Novell Inc. to install Linux on business PCs including OptiPlex desktops, Latitude notebooks and Dell Precision workstations. Dell also said it will work with other Linux providers since users requested many other versions of the OS, such as Novell/Suse Linux Desktop, Red Hat Enterprise Desktop, Fedora, OpenSuse and Ubuntu.
Although Michael Dell's approach is winning praise from some users, the company is still struggling to boost profitability in the short term. While the industry as a whole is expected to rebound in March from a sales slump preceding the launch of Windows Vista, Dell is likely to deviate from that trend and trim its order for notebook manufacturing, according to Citigroup analyst Richard Gardner in the report published on 13 March. He noted that Dell has been cutting the number of notebooks it orders from manufacturers in Taiwan.
Dell did not respond to a request for comment on the forecast.