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Dell cocks a deaf ear to Linux at its online listening post

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Linux

The customer is always right. Except, of course, when he's wrong.

Ask Dell, the well-known computer manufacturer. For years, this Texan company was a poster child for the brave new world of globalised manufacturing. Its 'just-in-time' manufacturing system - in which your computer began to be assembled only after you had pressed 'confirm' on the company's website - was touted as The Way To Do Things. When the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was planning The World Is Flat, his latest book on globalisation, he based the first chapter around an admiring account of how Dell built the laptop on which the volume was composed.

Of late, however, Dell has hit a bad patch. Senior executives have been fired, opted to spend more time with their families or departed to take up promising new careers in the fast-food industry. Michael Dell, the company's flamboyant founder, has returned to take command of the listing ship. And as part of his attempts to revitalise the company, Mr Dell and his team had a Big Idea: why not ask customers for their ideas about what should be done?

Thus was born IdeaStorm, Dell's effort to harness the collective intelligence of its actual and potential customers. It was launched on 16 February and has turned out to be very popular. Hordes of people signed up to volunteer their ideas. And that, of course, is where the trouble started.

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