Dell had a similar problem with Intel, in that Intel wasnt listening to them either, and the complexity and timing of the Core 2 Duo line created massive logistics problems for the company.
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In addition, the initial performance of the Core Duo product was so far off the mark that Dell lost significant share in critical markets to HP and others who had AMD products. Finally, AMD was being successfully used as both an anti-Dell tool by Dells competitors and as a way to get Intels attention by that same group. Dell needed to get Intels attention and finally concluded that AMD was the way to go to do that.
That worked Intel is all ears. And currently, even though the Core 2 Duo problems (arising from too many versions, making it hard to stock and even harder to market related systems) are not yet fixed, Intel is listening. And Dell views the AMD effort, for now, as successful.
They and they are not alone want something similar to AMD to position against Microsoft so that Microsoft steps up to the plate and builds complete products, on time, with sufficient demand-generation marketing behind them, and never again singles Dell out to be punished for a Microsoft mistake.
Linux to the Rescue
While Dell has stated they would rather license the MacOS because currently, at least on the desktop, it is vastly closer to the solution they need, they have turned to Linux as the only available choice and Novell, initially, as the best vendor (most experienced with large accounts) to provide it.
Interestingly enough, it is the deal Novell did with Microsoft that significantly enhanced this selection because they needed something that would interoperate well in a Windows environment to make this work and the business buyer is the initial target. In addition, Dell was a major supporter of Netware and part of an old related alliance so the two firms have a long and successful history together.
It is in Windows accounts where Dell is disproportionately strong. And if they can use Linux migrations to offset the delayed sales for Windows Vista, or if Microsoft simply starts listening to Dell and addresses Dells concerns, Dell wins. If Microsoft doesnt change and Linux cant step up to the task Dell loses, but probably isnt that much worse off than they are if they do nothing.
The question is: can Linux Step up?