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back to article Dell axes IT channel middlemen, installs Windows in the factory

Microsoft has granted Dell the power to install Windows on specialised computers before they leave the factory - neatly bypassing the distribution channel. Typically, customers buy these machines via an integrator, which provides the software with the kit. But now Dell's hardware-building biz OEM Solutions can manufacture and …

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WTF?

Re: That worked out well for Nokia

Yeah, Dell have never partnered with MS, right?

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Facepalm

MS will agree to anything

As long as its shifting Windows

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS will agree to anything

Well spotted. Businesses do indeed want to shift their product.

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Windows

@Tezfair

If you're a Microsoft reseller you want to be part of their Partner Network (link to MS Partner program). The best part here is that small businesses can join free of charge but if you need or want more, you'll have to invest in a subscription. Even so, there are several advantages (link to UK based Partner program page) to be found, and I'm not merely talking about licenses for their business products (Office, SharePoint, Exchange, etc.).

A Gold Partner not only pays quite a bit for his subscription, one could assume they also tend to ship quite a bit of Microsoft software. Yet Microsoft didn't have to think long before they dumped Gold partner Comantra (El Reg link) from their program after accusations that this firm was (phone) scamming UK customers.

So... pardon me for not agreeing here.

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El Reg, please send this advertiser an invoice.

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Re: @Tezfair

Been a partner for 10+ years on various tiers but have tended to step down the levels over the years since I was getting less for higher subscription payments.

I can live without MAPS and settle with just a basic technet these days - and even thats on the radar to ditch since everything now comes with a few months trail.

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Sorry - both these advertisers. Thanks for pointing that out!

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Anonymous Coward

Reminds me of Amway ...

Reminds me of pyramed selling .. er ... I mean "multi-level marketing" ...

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Windows for Tills TM. What an excellent idea. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

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It's already huge. I mean seriously, the sheer number of tills and petrol pumps that run Windows Embedded is staggering. Where have you been, man?

MS don't make much money off it - I believe a license currently goes around $3US for a 100+ unit install - but it doesn't crash, it does what people want and it's easy to code for.

House of Fraser actually use purely for the embedded browser so that all their tills connect directly to the central (non public) web servers on a sealed network. This gives them security and direct access to inventory management and billing.

Nothing could possibly go wrong

It certainly hasn't, so far at least. And it's been around since before XP.

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Stop

RE: Windows for Tills

"An error has occurred and your till must close. Mind your fingers....."

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The end of Project Sputnik?

I'm probably being too cynical but could this be the deal Dell needed some leverage with MS for?

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Re: The end of Project Sputnik?

Doubtful.

Sputnik was never going to make money. Tills and petrol pumps will.

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@dogged Re: The end of Project Sputnik?

That being my point. Sputnik was a lever to get something out of MS, was the deal on embedded licenses it?

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Linux

The Linux angle...

I suspect a few casual comments about needing the flexibility to do this that would force them into using Linux for these products would have focussed Microsoft's mind on the issue no doubt...

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FAIL

Re: The Linux angle...

I suspect a few casual comments about needing the flexibility to do this that would force them into using Linux for these products would have focussed Microsoft's mind on the issue no doubt...

Hardly. In the world of POS the software is the USP, not the hardware it runs on.

WEPOS licences are dirt cheap and the OS is established and reliable.

Linux is a non-starter as 99.99% of POS software runs on Windows. The demand is just not there to rewrite POS software for a different OS when it already works on Windows. And then you have the driver problem - who's going to write drivers for receipt printers, pole displays, cash drawers, etc?

And as regards support? Who wants a beardy-weirdo operating system on their POS? Hardware supplier will blame the software folk and vice-versa every time something goes wrong...

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Re: The Linux angle...

I'm sorry, but as someone who has written POS software for Windows. I have to say that it doesn't matter if there are drivers for "pole displays" or "cash drawers".

Yes there are driver architectures for such devices. I have tried them. They don't work. They simply don't work. We had an IBM POS System with a cash drawer connected to the display (a bit unusual, they are usually connected to the printer). The display and the drawer driver both wanted to access the serial port which obviously didn't work. The only way around would have been to turn off the display, turning on the drawer, ejecting the drawer, turing on the display again (which reset it).

We eventually just controlled the hardware directly which simply worked. It actually took less work to write individual drivers for each one of the 4 display types we had than to find out how that "OpenPOS" thing worked.

BTW we always did that with printers, but there were essentially just 2 standards to support.

I still say, if someone uses Windows for an embedded device, there is a very good chance they haven't looked at the alternatives.

Ahh and BTW, speaking of support. Back when I worked as a programmer in a Windows-based company, there was a problem with the compiler. Yes, that sounds unlikely, but I was able to write a 3 line program which triggered the bug. So I filed the bug with the compiler manufacturer, Borland. It took many months to get a reply which was essentially that the bug timed out.

Then the people working there had no idea what they were doing. Back then Windows NT 4 was new and it was near impossible to tell whether your blue screen came from software or hardware bugs. There also was virtually nothing to diagnose the bugs. We once called support which was charged by the minute and cost us a fortune. I believe it was for RAS, something which should be fairly trivial... and is on most operating systems.

Microsoft can only survive in that market because of FUD and because they are darn cheap there.

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Gimp

Re: The Linux angle...

I'm sorry, but as someone who has written POS software for Windows. I have to say that it doesn't matter if there are drivers for "pole displays" or "cash drawers".

What software was that, do you mind me asking?

We had an IBM POS System with a cash drawer connected to the display (a bit unusual, they are usually connected to the printer). The display and the drawer driver both wanted to access the serial port which obviously didn't work. The only way around would have been to turn off the display, turning on the drawer, ejecting the drawer, turing on the display again (which reset it).

What you describe is a ridiculous hardware setup, and hardly something you can blame WIndows for... Why was the software not written to kick the drawer through the dedicated DK port? Or through the printer? Without having more info, it sounds like whoever programmed the POS software was a lazy idiot.

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Gimp

Re: Linux POS ..

Linux Point-of-Sale Software

Who's your support contract with? Will an engineer come out to fix this magical free software when your till goes titsup.com on a Friday night and the queue at the bar is 4-deep?

See the problem yet?

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Linux

Re: Linux POS ..

Not all POS devices are ready made,..There are companies (such as ours) which do develop and sell POS device for our line which we take care of maintenance. We use CE but we could just as readily use Linux. So no, there is no problem.

Many Linux models are based on support. It wouldn't exactly be challenging to start a business running Linux and provide support for POS devices, but I think the bigger issue is, as noted, its a saturated market, especially in Retail/ Restaurants.

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Re: Linux POS ..

>Who's your support contract with?

This applies to any solution a business depends upon - I've many times seen ATMs and POS terminals out-of-service displaying a Windows error screen of some description.

I take it that MS support for WEPOS is significantly better than that for other versions of Windows?

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Re: The Linux angle...

>WEPOS licences are dirt cheap and the OS is established and reliable.

Are you referring to the version of WEPOS that is following the same support cycle as Windows XP and hence will suffer all the same end-of-support issues come April 2014?

Whilst I understand and accept your argument that Linux (or another OS) is a potential non-starter, in the current POS marketplace, I do wonder whether the changes to version support, ie. Microsoft's attempts to move on from an established platform, will unsettle the status quo and cause the sector to assess whether other software platforms that it can control better, particularly from a long term support angle would be more appropriate.

>Hardware supplier will blame the software folk and vice-versa every time something goes wrong

Doesn't that happen already? can't see the providence of the OS changing this, only that an OS to which the POS support team have source access to would enable them to resolve the issue much more quickly.

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WTF?

Re: Linux POS ..

This applies to any solution a business depends upon - I've many times seen ATMs and POS terminals out-of-service displaying a Windows error screen of some description.

God you're clueless. You see, this is the problem with furry-toothed geeks promoting linux.

They haven't been out of their parent's basement enough to understand how businesses outside of an office environment operate.

A bank doesn't give a toss if an ATM is out of service. 99% of the time an ATM is down it's because it's out of money, not becuz WINBL0wZ SUX0RZ. They're not losing money by having an ATM down, are they? If they want an ATM loaded out of hours it's gonna cost them to have a bunch of securicor guys go and do it.

Same with the tills in Tesco. One or two down? No biggy, there are plenty of spares. If the network goes down and ALL the tills stop working there's gonna be an engineer onsite yesterday.

It's all very well typing "free linux pos software" into Google and saying "Hurr hurr yeah look, here are six examples of linux pos software...". They're free for a reason - they're shit and any notion of support is going to involve trading emails with one of the aforementioned furry-toothed geeks.

I take it that MS support for WEPOS is significantly better than that for other versions of Windows?

Again you're talking bollocks. BIll Gates isn't going to come out to fix your till, is he? Neither is Linus Fucking Torvalds, so what's your point?

The POS software reseller is the one who comes out to provide service last time I looked.

Tell you what - why don't you show me some linux POS software that is out there on the scale of, say, ICRTouch?

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Stop

Re: The Linux angle...

Are you referring to the version of WEPOS that is following the same support cycle as Windows XP and hence will suffer all the same end-of-support issues come April 2014?

Nice troll attempt.

WEPOS had mainstream support until April 2011 and has extended support until April 2016.

POSReady 2009 has mainstream support until April 2014 and extended support until April 2019.

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Re: Linux POS ..

@Ross K

I hope you feel better for getting that out of your system!

Lets return to your original point, namely:

"Who's your support contract with? Will an engineer come out to fix this magical free software when your till goes titsup.com on a Friday night and the queue at the bar is 4-deep?"

I just pointed out in my response that WEPOS systems can also hard fail to a state that requires a visit. Hence the need for a support contract with your ATM/POS supplier is independent of the component suppliers, of which the OS provider is just one. As you say "BIll Gates isn't going to come out to fix your till, is he? Neither is Linus F****** Torvalds, ... The POS software reseller is the one who comes out to provide service last time I looked.".

Moving on to the second point "fix this magic software", if there is a problem found within the OS code then who is going to fix this? Obviously if your ATM/POS supplier has access to source code then they can fix it - pronto! however, with WEPOS they will need to report a fault to a third-party, Microsoft and wait. My question was therefore predicated on my experience with MS support for its desktop and server versions of Windows and having to keep a customer happy whilst we waited...

You may wish to interpret my questioning as trolling, however FYI my main experience is with proprietary embedded systems.

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Re: The Linux angle... Ross K 12:54

>Nice troll attempt - obviously the "furry-toothed geeks" have been getting to you!

No, my point was just an observation that MS has enjoyed a long period of relative stability in it's OS code-base and products ie. XP and it's derivatives/look-a-likes, and hence these products have been able to establish credibility and market share. Now these products are heading towards their end-of-life with all the changes that this entails, particularly for customers with extensive deployments based on these products...

Obviously, as you note, in the embedded space MS has been able to largely oust the competition and hence depending upon your application needs, there isn't much choice, unless the POS supplier is willing to effectively take ownership of the OS platform.

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Holmes

Wanna buy a Dell till?

Wanna buy a Dell till? No need to pay that integrator

Would anybody out there actively seek out a Dell till? Probably not.

If they're trying to get into POS, they're entering a crowded marketplace. I don't know if anybody told them, but retail and hospitality are fucked - nobody's spending money on hardware.

As regards hardware sales Toshiba, IBM, Aures, J2, NCR, Micros and a hundred other OEMs are fighting for scraps as it is. Room for one more? Could they differentiate on the after-sales service? I doubt it...

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Meh

I thought the channel increased reach?

The channel developed so OEMs could manufacture and ship out to a large number of little customers without having to invest and manage in developing a large sales team?

Is Dell only focusing on the enterprise kind here then?

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I wonder if this just formalised what was already happening?

It makes commercial sense for the OS to be installed when the systems are built, I therefore suspect that in the past Dell did exactly this for AVnet and it's other customers, but only to contract ie. AVnet supplied the COA stickers. Hence this change enables Dell to obtain the COA stickers directly from Microsoft with the added advantage of being able to sell such systems directly to the market (ie. to more boutique integrators).

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WTF?

A Wyse Move?

Couldn't Dell already do this with their subsidiary, Wyse?

They've been shipping Embedded Windows for donkey's years?

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Re: A Wyse Move?

Maybe Dell felt that the Wyse brand had no recognition in the type of market they're targeting?

Dell, Wyse, whatever. It's just a sticker on a case anyway, isn't it?

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Who new...

.. they didn't do this already?

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Stop

Re: Who new...

This is for EMBEDDED systems.

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Meh

This is news?

I haven't used an integrator for quite a long time. I'm surprised to hear they still even exist.

My last 2 employers have been getting their end user machines directly from Dell for years.

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FAIL

Re: This is news?

Are you talking about specialised machines running windows embedded? Or are you talking about a general use PCs?

Methinks you should read the article first. Pay attention to things like the first line :)

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Facepalm

Re: This is news?

Yes and yes.

But thanks for the patronizing. My day just wasn't complete without it.

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