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Summary:

With its Project Sputnik laptop, Dell hopes to lure Linux-loving developers back into its camp and perhaps even get some who defected to Mac OSX to return to the open source fold. The laptop bundles Ubuntu, tools and an on-ramp to github repositories.

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth
Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth

What is it that web developers want? That’s what Dell is trying to find out with its just-launched Project Sputnik, an “experimental” laptop bundled with Ubuntu Linux plus utilities, and with an easy on-ramp to github repositories coming soon. Sputnik looks like Dell’s attempt to wrest the attention of the many web developers that have defected to OS X, but chafe at the restrictions Apple’s walled garden imposes on them.

Barton George, director of Dell’s web vertical, unveiled the project on his blog and Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth showed off the Dell XPS13 laptop laptop running Ubuntu 12.04 at the Ubuntu Developers Summit in Oakland on Monday.

The choice of Ubuntu as the Linux of choice makes sense given its popularity on desktops (and the fact that Canonical, the force behind Ubuntu, collaborated with Dell on the project.) Right now, the Sputnik install image includes drivers and patches (drivers can be a problem with Linux) and utilities. But more important for developers will be the coming ability to download developer “profiles” from github. The first profiles will be for Android, Ruby and JavaScript.

Most Linux distributions come with a downloadable LAMP stack to jump start development. What Dell is doing is giving developers a quick way to find and install a software stack from github so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel, said Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady, who consulted with Dell on this project. “If I’m new to PHP or Java or Android, I won’t have to figure out what a capable stack looks like. I can use a cookbook based on others who’ve done it before.”

Peter Eddy, a developer at Boston-based Gazelle, is intrigued. “This sounds like something I had been looking for years before I switched to OS X. I used to use Linux on laptops but it was always a gamble that it would actually work, especially the WiFi and suspend and resume,” he said. Project Sputnik should see traction from Linux developers who defected to the Mac but might come back to save money, he added.

Interestingly, there is no analogous Dell developer laptop for Windows or the other Linux distributions, although that could change, a Dell spokeswoman said. O’Grady said he is not aware of any comparable developer-focused laptops from Hewlett-Packard or other laptop makers. Given the importance of developers to the overall ecosystem, that is somewhat surprising.

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  1. cool! though I prefer my thinkpad :)

    1. lotsa lenovo thinkpad love in these comments!

  2. linuxjediskysql Tuesday, May 8, 2012

    ‎”What is it that web developers want?” Lenovo Thinkpads. Sorry Dell you just don’t cut it.

    1. I like thinkpads, though ultrabooks do intrigue me.

      I would love to see lenovo do something like this for engineers, that would make me happy.

      1. Thinkpad X220 works for me and is ultrabookish, plus I have a slice battery for an extra 10 hours battery for conferences, flights, etc… (on top of the 10 hours I already get in Linux with the main battery)

  3. I currently use a 17in Macbook Pro for heavy Java development. What I want is a fast cpu, lots of mem (min 8gb), ssd (min 500gm), really good screen with high resolution. And min 8h on battery. And a os with a good filesystem. A linux dist with drivers that support the hw would be great.

  4. If I’m going to be deploying to RedHat and managing a gaggle of RedHat Servers, it makes sense to use… RedHat. Or CentOS.

  5. Too little, too late? Dell has offered Ubuntu in the past, but they keep the price of the Windows machines less. If they really want to do this, they need to do it right and sell the hardware at a price, and let the USER decide what software they want (Windoze or Linux).

  6. ObiWanKenobi Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    Dell has been fiddling around with Ubuntu for years and nothing has ever shown up. Just go to the Dell web site and try to buy a desktop with Ubuntu. I do not thing anything will happen now.

  7. elrevolucionista Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    Dell should offer the same computers it already offers, but the option of having Ubuntu at a lower price. Linux users either build their own stuff, or buy a Windows or a Mac knowing they are paying extra for an OS they are not going to use.

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