Dell is dipping into the retail market in Australia by selling machines through Officeworks, but the PC giant doesn't believe there's enough consumer demand to sell Linux PCs.
Under a partnership announced this morning, Dell will sell through Officeworks' 104 stores nationwide -- a major shift from its previous direct model of selling online and by telephone (and through the occasional at-risk kiosk). However, when it comes to the 10 models that will be available through the stores , you'll have just one operating system choice: Windows Vista.
"At this stage it's Vista only," Evan Williams, general manager for consumer sales and marketing at Dell South Asia, said during a telephone briefing on the plans. "We'll evaluate on the XP side." (For its recent revision of its Vestron small business line, Dell is allowing customers to downgrade their licence and purchase a machine with Windows XP already installed.)
Nor is Dell planning to extend its Inspiron notebook line featuring Ubuntu rather than Windows, which has been successful in the US and Europe, into Australia. "We've got no plans at this stage in the consumer portfolio, but we are looking at it closely," Williams said.
Selling Linux machines has proven successful for other major retailers. Myer sold out of Asus' Eee PC when the machine went on sale exclusively through its stores last year (Asus now sells the machine through a variety of stores). Williams said that feedback from Officeworks customers might help determine the future viability of a Linux line for Australian buyers.
Williams acknowledged that it could be harder to sell some machines in an online environment, especially to inexperienced consumers. "The notebook market is the real strength and it's driving a lot of the growth. People are more and more conscious about the design of the product."
Dell declined to comment on whether notebooks and desktops bought at Officeworks would be cheaper than its online offerings, although several of the models sold in stores will not be available on its site.
Prices for in-store machines will range from $999 to $1800, Officeworks general manager marketing and merchandising David Oakley said. Some Officeworks stores will also allow customers to place online orders and customise their machines. The machines will go on sale from Monday May 5.