Dell offers business open-air PCs, without Windows

Dell Computer is selling business PCs that do not come with Microsoft's Windows operating system to some business clients, a practice it has been involved in for a while, the company said Thursday.

The Optiplex GX260, Precision 530 and Precision 340 can be ordered by certain high-volume business clients with a clean hard drive and a copy of FreeDOS, an operating system distributed under the GNU General Public License, said Jess Blackburn, a Dell spokesman.

The Windows-free corporate desktops and workstations will also sell under the n-Series moniker, said spokesman for Dell Australia, Rob Small, but will represent only a small percentage of the company's total stock.

"This has been forced by our customers," said Small.

"Our business in the tertiary education sector is increasing, and they're the ones interested in experimenting."

Dell has been selling PCs without an operating system installed "for some time, for an extremely small minority of our customers who prefer this option," Blackburn said.

The PCs without Windows are only available to business customers, consumers cannot order a Dell PC with anything other than Microsoft Windows, he said.

IBM is also in the practise of selling PCs without Windows installed.

A spokeswoman for IBM Australia said IBM would only provide Windows-free computers on a case by case basis however, and only for large business orders.

New licensing policies from Microsoft insist that PC manufacturers ship all PCs with an OS installed, for piracy reasons. However, companies that wish to use other operating systems such as Linux find it easier to install that alternate operating system on a PC with a clean hard drive, said Pete Kastner, chief research officer at Aberdeen Group Inc. PCs have to be wiped clean of the old OS before a new one can be installed, which requires time and labor by a company's IT staff, he said.

By putting a copy of FreeDOS in a PC's shipping box, Dell is complying with Microsoft's policies, and continuing to meet the requests of its customers for a PC without an operating system.

Dell ships PCs with distributions of the Linux operating systems for select business customers who request specific software be installed on their PCs before they ship, Blackburn said.

The Round Rock, Texas, company also revealed Thursday it will discontinue its entry-level SmartStep desktop for consumers that was sold with a fixed configuration. A preconfigured Dimension 2300 LE will replace the SmartStep 150D, but the SmartStep name will continue to represent Dell's entry-level notebook PCs.

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