Dell Opens Up To Open Source Again

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Dell is opening the door to open source again. Back in May the computer manufacturer announced its Project Sputnik that would bring developer laptops that utilize an open source operating system. Today the company announced that the first Sputnik laptops will be out this fall. No official release date or price of the laptop has been announced however.

The Dell XPS 13 will run with the Linux-based Ubuntu 12.04 LTS “Precise Pangolin” preloaded. Dell is introducing this laptop as a developer tool to create cloud-based applications. Project Sputnik´s larger objective is to provide developers with a “complete client-to-cloud solution” according to Dell.

The computer could eventually be branded as the XPS 13 Developer Editor or Open-Source Edition, and it will be based on Dell´s high-end laptop that features a 13.3 inch screen with edge to edge glass with a 1366×768 resolution, i7 sGHz Intel Core2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD. The laptop will reportedly weigh just 2.99 pounds.

The new laptop, which is reportedly the first of multiple upcoming products that will run on open source, will feature a full set of Linux hardware drivers along with Cloud and Profile tools, the latter of which should make it easier for developers to integrate GitHub while the Cloud tools will allow developers to create and manage “microclouds.” Both the tools are still under development.

This is also not the first time that Dell has provided an open source computer. Dell had offered systems with Linux pre-installed back in 2007, which grew out of online suggestion box IdeaStorm. However, in 2010 the company stopped including Ubuntu as an option.

Dell´s Barton George, the project lead on Project Sputnik, told TechCrunch that the company stopped offering the Linux version because it was confusing to average users and “It wasn´t reaching the right audience.”

This time around Dell hopes to reach that right audience, and further acknowledges that the demand for the open source computers never really went away. Just as suggestions on IdeaStorm encouraged Dell to offer Ubuntu back in 2007, the same level of demand spurred renewed interest. This was enough according to George for the company to bring back a Linux-based system.

At present Dell is not the only manufacturer to support the Linux community. TechCrunch noted that “there are several ℠white box´ vendors offering Linux laptops, but no major vendor is selling fully featured (non-netbook) machines with Linux pre-installed.”

However, Canonical, Ubuntu´s parent company, has been working closely with Dell on this new project since it was initiated.

“I am delighted to see Project Sputnik going to production,” Jono Bacon, Ubuntu’s community manager, told ZDnet. “We have had a long and positive relationship with Dell, and in Ubuntu we are increasingly focusing on developers and their needs, so Project Sputnik forms an ideal partnership. What excites me about Project Sputnik is that it brings elegance in software and hardware together and empowers developers to do great work on not only a powerful platform, but one underlined with this sleek and enjoyable software and hardware experience.”

In addition to supporting cloud developers the upcoming Dell laptop will ship with profiles that contain a variety of core programmer tools for developers, including JavaScript, Ruby on Rails and Android, while others will be available depending on programming demands.