Buy Your Linux Laptop Direct and By Pass Dell

Posted by tadelste on Sep 19, 2005 12:06 PM
Lxer; By Tom Adelstein

The "Name" brands do not manufacture their own laptops. They buy them from Original Design Manufacturers (ODM). These ODMs sell their computers to DELL, Toshiba, IBM, HP, Compaq, Sony and others. They then put their label on it and market it. You can find the same laptops and buy yours without an operating system.

About a year ago, The Inquirer ran an article discussing the commoditization of laptop computers. Turns out that Compal, Quanta and Wistron produce the vast majority of machines under the guise of original design manufacturers.



According to the article written by Mike Magee, understanding how laptops make it to you has some significance.



And that means that our choice of notebook is far more limited than it’s ever been, with the large multinational brands like HP, Dell, IBM and Toshiba ceding most of the work on the machines to outsourced Taiwanese ODMs and just slapping their badge on machines which have more similarities than differences.


In the Laptop world, ODMs provide their products to DELL, Toshiba, IBM, HP, Compaq, and Sony who install a hard drive, processor, RAM and their sticker on them. For the privilege of paying a markup and a licensing fee for Microsoft Windows, you can have a Compal, Quanta or Wistron with a Dell or other logo. You might even find a Clevo in the bunch.



Psychologically, branding has a calming effect on people who buy things they don't understand. Why pay less when you can get the same thing for more? When it comes to name brand products of various kinds, that's what people must believe.



Of course, some would argue that you'll get better support from a name brand manufacturer than the people that made them. That's another of the major myths in the industry. The ODM's typically provide what we call level 3 support which means ultimately the manufacturer provides support to the technicians at the major resellers. The resellers outsource their technical support to someone else and in many cases those call centers reside in India.



Just last week, I spoke to Cindi and Annie in New Delhi about a problem I had with a modem. They seemed like nice girls. When I started speaking about India with them, they suddenly had different names. They did not work for the company that put their name on the modem.



When you call one of the name brand computer companies and get one of their real employees, he or she is often a sales associate. And if you have good luck, you will find technical support provided by the name brand company. But, when it comes to Linux, you might have better luck somewhere else.



They Don't Support Linux, Don't Support Them



Someone might think I'm saying that the major brands do not add value to their products. I'm not saying that at all. I just want to convey that you can probably find a comparable notebook from the same ODM for less money and without the Windows tax by going to an alternate source.



You can do your own searches on Google if you want to find people who resell Compal, Quanta, Wistron, Asus, Clevo, Mitac, FIC, AOpen, and Uniwill. Most of them will sell you a laptop without an operating system or they will install Linux on it for you. You should do your own shopping because these ODM products are available in various countries around the world. You should also make sure you feel comfortable with the reseller.



One of the larger companies I investigated sells ODM laptops without an operating system 50% of the time. They also say that a large portion of their customers use Linux and that's why they offer Linux.



I wonder if Gartner surveyed that company? In fact, don't you wonder if the analysts who praise the HP's and Dells of the world are really helping their customers? I mean, do they tell their customers that if they want a certain Quanta model that they can chose from a selection of name brand computers?







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