A first look at Dell's 'Sputnik' Ubuntu Linux developer laptop

Summary:Dell will be shipping a high-powered laptop for developers this fall, and here's what it's going to look like.

Dell Developer Laptop

Portland, OR: Sputnik started, Barton George, Dell's project Sputnik lead and director of web vertical marketing,   told me at OSCon as a six-month exploratory pilot to create an Ubuntu Linux-based developer laptop, It's not just an idea now. Dell is taking Project Sputnik from pilot to product this fall. 

This official developer laptop is based on the Dell XPS 13 with Ubuntu 12.04 Long Term Support (LTS)  This PC will offer developers a complete client-to-cloud solution. The Sputnik will allow developers to create “microclouds” on their laptops, simulating a proper, at-scale environment, and then deploy that environment seamlessly to the cloud. George explained it would use LXC virtual environments containers for the microclouds. These cloud applications can then be deployed to Ubuntu instances running on the Amazon, OpenStack, bare-metal with Management as a Service (MAAS), and, eventually, Microsoft Azure clouds.

A first look at Ubuntu 12.04 (Gallery)

The Sputnik won't be just for cloud developers. George said that there has been an incredible amount of interest in the project. “When I first put the word out I thought it would be a success if I got 4,000 hits on the proposal. It's now over 50,000 hits.” Since then developers have been telling Dell in great detail what they want from a developer's laptop and Dell has been listening.

In addition to supporting cloud developers, the Sputnik will come with profiles that contains all the core programmer tools a developer might need for a particular language or environment.  “Three developer profiles to begin with: JavaScript, Ruby on Rails, and Android. There will  be others depending on programmers' demands, and we're toying with the idea of 'customized' profiles.” So, for example, you could download the Tim Bray, one of Google's Android's leaders, Android developer profile.

Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, has been working with Dell on the program from the start. Indeed, the project really got going, said George, after Shuttleworth visited Dell's office and gave the notion his blessings... and his own ideas on what he'd like to see in a best-of-breed developer laptop.

The Sputnik, which according to George may eventually be named the XPS 13 Developer Edition or open-source Edition, will be based on Dell's high-end XPS 13 laptop. The Sputnik will have a 13.3 inch screen with edge to edge glass with 1366x768  resolution, i7 2GHz Intel Core2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD, all in a 0.88 x 12.56 x 9.3 inch frame and weights in at  2.99 lbs.

In the engineering sample I saw the system was, as you might expect, extremely fast. The keyboard, while a chiclet style, had a good response and the touch-pad worked well. The matte screen was quite usable even in a very bright environment. Personally, I would have been happy to walk away with and start work.

George couldn't give me an exact price but said it would be in the ballpark of the current top-of-the-line Dell XPS 13, about $1,500.

The Ubuntu team is excited about it. Jono Bacon, Ubuntu's community manager told me, “I am delighted to see Project Sputnik going to production. 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.”

Related Stories:

Dell readies Ubuntu Linux laptop for developers

Has Microsoft opened the door to the Linux desktop?

Ubuntu 12.04 vs. Windows 8: Five points of comparison

20-million new Ubuntu Linux PCs in 2012?

Ubuntu 12.04 arrives and it's great



Topics: Linux, Dell, Laptops, PCs, Software, Software Development

About

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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