The problems with preinstallation of Linux
Posted Mar 7, 2007 7:42 UTC (Wed) by rakoenig
Parent article: Major systems vendors and Linux
Today installing a Linux distribution is quite easy, sometimes even more easy than installing the product from Microsoft. Working in the Linux desktop business myself I frequently face the question of a preinstalled Linux. The question always rises up as a good idea and gets buried when the discussion comes to the costs and efforts you have to invest.
Preinstallation would mean you need to setup a Linux image that is then copied to the hard disks during manufacturing. Even this process is critical because the size of your image matters about the "turnaround cycles" in your production lines.
The next issue is: Developing an image that on the first run then configures user settings like network, users, machine name and so on. This is probably time consuming.
Then your image needs to be tested to avoid that the customer ends up with an unsuable system. Testing means costs, testing means time. In a "time to market"-business you need to get ressources for that.
Then you should provide a sort of "bare metal recovery" so that every user is able to restore the factory installation by putting the image back on his disk. Problems can be: Shall we protect the /home directory from being overwritten or not and so on.
Even with this basic issues solved you will run into a much much deeper trouble. What are you going to pack on your preinstallation? This starts by selecting the distribution and then selecting the packets.
As far as the distribution is concerned you can bet that whatever distribution you will use you will get a high percentage of "customers" that complain because you used distro A and not distro B. Even if you switch from A to B you will experience that this doesn't improve your situation.
Chosing the distro is also connected to support issues. If you chose enterprise level distros like SLED or RHEL client, then the distrubutors will offer support if you buy a license, but license costs are what vendors want to aoid when offering Linux compatible systems.
If you use a "free" distribution then you will get no support from you distributor and so the vendor has to handle the support incidents. That means resources again.
Even if you would solve the question of the distro, then you would get the same feedback for your selection of packets. Just imagine the MTA, you can chose between Exim, Postfix and Sendmail. Same applies for office packages, for editors and so on. Sometimes you could install a superset, sometimes not.
All this is a big hassle that usually the vendors want to avoid.
Problem is as usual the market share. As long as the Linux desktop market is so small nobody wants to invest money and resources to push it up. Unfortunately it can't grow without investments, a typical "hen and egg" scenario.
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