Dell have just kicked off a project with
Ubuntu Canonical. Project Sputnik is a 6-month effort to try to pull together a solid Ubuntu build on a solid laptop, for developers. The Dell XPS13 has been chosen as the first target platform.
We’re constantly getting questions from developers about which Ultrabook to buy but the problems is the word ‘developers.’ I’m a developer myself but the only tool I use is VI as I hack my PHP and HTML for the Ultrabooknews product database. Other, more serious, developers need source code control, collaboration tools, compilers and integrated development environments. Project Sputnik is aiming to deliver a standard Ubuntu build (currently based on 12.04) and additional, downloadable profiles. So if you’re developing for the web, you might add in a web-focused profile. If you’re developing for Android, there could be a better profile for you.
In addition to profiles and packages, Dell are working with Canonical (the commercial arm of the Ubuntu operation) to get drivers organized. Reading between the lines, it means that Dell is paying Canonical (through their innovation fund) to get these driver issues sorted out. That’s one of the biggest hurdles being addressed right there.
As for the hardware, we already know about the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook. It’s a stylish, 1st-gen Ultrabook that appears to be selling well. We suspect it’s been chosen for promotional purposes as well as being a widely replicated platform (Core i5, HD3000) and one that can scale up to high-end use cases. Looking forward, there shouldn’t be any major problems in getting HD4000 and Ivy Bridge working which means three-screen support for desktop scenarios.
How can you get involved?
Watch the video below and connect with Barton George of Dell Read this post on the Dell Ideastorm site and Bartons blog. The Ideastorm site is also the best place for early feedback. Your comments are welcome below too. If you’ve got an XPS 13, you can try out the early build. I’ll be giving it a shot later this week.
Is there a chance for a subsidized XPS13 for developers through this project?
Dell are giving units to ‘key influencers.’ Again, connect with Barton. We haven’t heard about any XPS 13 subsidies.
Why Linux as a development environment?
I don’t know to be honest as I’m not a developer. Clearly there are a lot of tools in the open-source domain and that fosters garage development but there are probably other reasons. Community? Maybe devs reading this can comment. Is this a move by Dell to pull developers away from Apple? Maybe Google could jump in with some Chromebook love? (Latest Chromebooks will be based on 2nd or 3rd-Gen Core platforms.) Is Win 7 that bad? What if Intel started offering Win 8 developer Ultrabooks under the AppUp program? Many questions that I can’t answer right now.
What happens if the project is successful?
“It’s not a product right now.” says Barton in the video. If Sputnik is successful Dell is likely to expand the project to a bigger ‘heavyweight’ developers laptop. Barton also talks about the expansion of Sputnik as a developer environment which includes cloud storage and community. Sputnik could become a web development environment in itself. Unfortunately, there’s no information on Dell-Ubuntu products at this stage but one can imagine a route by which Dell will supply Ubuntu-based laptops if the project works out.