Two leading hardware vendors, Dell and Lenovo, are quietly selling laptops without preloaded Microsoft Windows to Linux customers who know where to look, says Lincoln Durey, CEO of EmperorLinux, an Atlanta reseller that customizes, installs and supports Linux on the major-brand laptops it sells.

Durey says that “basically all of the Latitudes” are now available without an OS. EmperorLinux sells Dell’s D420, D520, D620, D820, D620ATG, and M90 with Linux. Of those models, only the ruggedized D620ATG and the M90, which is part of the Precision series, require the customer to buy preloaded Microsoft Windows, he says.

Dell has been smoothing out the ordering process for the Windows-free laptops since introducing the option last month, Durey says.

“There were some ordering hiccups. They would call back and say we can’t do that, and you would say, you can do it,” he says. EmperorLinux’s two most popular Dell laptops are the D820, available without a Microsoft licence, and the M90, which is not.

Customers aren’t saving money by passing up the OS licence, though. “The Dell price is identical. Windows or nothing, it is exactly the same to the penny,” Durey says. “I’ve actually seen one-time discounts on the Windows side that are not reflected on the Linux side for a week, so you could end up getting the Windows ones cheaper,” he adds.

Lenovo, however, passes on a savings of about US$40 to customers who order ThinkPads without the Microsoft licence, Durey says. Currently EmperorLinux sells some T Series ThinkPad models without the Microsoft licence, but Durey says he has not yet been able to order an X series ThinkPad except with the licence.

“The nice thing about not having the OS licence is that it will lower the total cost of the solution,” says Randy Hickel,



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