In this article, we asked Herbert Feiler about how TUXEDO Computers was born, how it developed into the company it is today, and what he sees in its future.
Turning a hobby into a profession may sound trite, but it best describes the way I’ve worked to create TUXEDO Computers.
In 2001 Windows XP came out, so I had to switch from my Windows 95. Yes, I was one of the many Windows 98 deniers. I tried to delay the upgrade as long as possible. So if I have to get used to a different user interface anyway, why not change and get used to Linux right away?
No sooner said than done. In 2002 I started to switch to Linux. Since, at that time, fast internet lines were hardly available on the one hand and much too expensive on the other hand, I ordered a software box. That was a SuSE Linux 7.3 with 7 CDs and thousands of pages of manuals. A DVD, which would have prevented the CD change orgy, was included, but due to the lack of a suitable drive I could not use it. I continued my journey with Mandrake Linux (later Mandriva), Debian, and a trip to Gentoo. A few Knoppix installations later, I stayed with Debian for a few years until I switched to Ubuntu.
Immediately after the first obstacles with SuSE, the idea grew in me to create a website – today one would call it a blog – which accompanied my transition to Linux, on which I could share my experiences and report on my difficulties, in order to save other users some problems, and above all, time.
I wanted to make people less afraid of Linux by giving easy-to-understand instructions and help.
After a short time this website/blog spawned a forum to answer questions and to stimulate general discussions among the readers. Frequently, people were asking where to get Linux. All this begged the question, “Why send customers away and not offer what they want?” Besides, hosting and domains for the Website and forum had to be paid. So in 2004 the “Linux-Onlineshop.de” was born.
The beginning was mostly thick boxes of software, a few books, and many fan articles. From there, we added stuffed animals, cups, mouse pads, baseball caps, and small stickers.
Eventually, people started asking about hardware. Which notebook did we recommend? Which one was particularly well supported? Which desktop PC was most suitable? What do I have to pay attention to when buying hardware? And of course, WHERE do you get the right devices?
It was not even possible to dream of pre-installed, pre-configured, and fully equipped devices at that time!
For a long time, I referred them to an external source, but more and more other customer problems arose, especially when it came to the detailed configuration of the devices and their peripherals.
Why not offer it by yourself?
In the end, I had the idea to provide those interested people with the devices, so that they could be sure that everything would work. I started with PCs, because they are comparatively simple: All components are plugged in and can be installed as well as removed. This has remained the case to this day. So I sat down and assembled and installed my own PCs.
In 2006, we added notebooks and here the composition was already more difficult. Due to their limited dimensions, notebooks are not as modular and flexible as desktop PCs. My company was still too small to manufacture them directly in the Far East. But with the right partners, and with time, the whole concept matured and I could offer the first notebooks. Over the years and with increased possibilities, these have become better and better and we continue to work constantly to improve their quality.
In the meantime, the little plant that (again sounding like a cliché) started in the basement, has grown into a medium-sized company, and is now called TUXEDO Computers. Today, we have around 30 employees in Germany, in Königsbrunn, near Augsburg, providing support, development, marketing, etc. The production in Leipzig has another 80 employees.
Devices that just work
It has always been important to me that our computers, and everything connected to them, just work. This means that my staff and I invest plenty of time and manpower to develop our own drivers, so that they work perfectly between the hardware and the installed software. We don’t avoid the weeks of testing or selection, nor the validation effort that has to be done with new hardware and software. It is imperative that our devices function flawlessly and that our customers are happy. Only linux-compatible options are selected for the devices, and we include our own tools for system control such as the Control Center, the Fan Control, and the Keyboard Control.
We also spend a lot of time on additional services for our customers. In addition to a web service for easy recovery or reinstallation of the devices, we also offer a cloud service. Of course, everything on our German servers is fully encrypted, according to the strictest security and data protection rules, as demanded by German law.
Customers value support and assistance
Customers often want to know that they can depend on support and consulting services as well. There are users who are, sometimes sensibly, worried about independent installations, or just don’t know what to do. This is understandable. We do the preparatory work with the installation and configuration of the operating system, so that the device only needs to be unpacked, and switched on. Everything works immediately. Simply. Out of the box.
We also respond to, and respect, people’s need for independence and freedom. With our devices, and their equipment we can make a big contribution. Data protection is a permanent issue for us because we have many customers from different professional groups who work with sensitive or valuable data. So, we offer possibilities such as BIOS-side shutdown of webcams, microphones, management engines, and radio technologies, including full hard disk encryption.
Our company, TUXEDO Computers, will continue to develop in the next years and offer customers new possibilities, but not at any cost, and not at the expense of our customers. The quality of our products and services must always be at the highest level. In the end, it is important to me that we remain true to ourselves, and to never forget where our beginnings lie. In Linux and Open Source.
– Herbert Feiler, CEO of Tuxedo Computers