Software developers have another reason to love Dell this year with their announcement that Project Sputnik will proceed as planned. Designed to meet developers’ needs, the effort is aimed at producing a Linux laptop. The first stage of the project will include a six-month exploratory effort that will look for a more effective combination between Ubuntu 12.04 and Dell’s own XPS 13 Ultrabook.
The software component of the project is designed for developers, providing useful tools and a set of framework for automating the installation of cloud deployment tools and specific development stacks. In addition, Dell will also work on hardware enhancements like optimizing drivers for better touchpad functionality and support for a keyboard switch to turn WiFi on or off.
The project was conceived in May to explore options whether the company will go ahead with the production of the actual laptops. Dell announced this week that the project will continue and Sputnik will be released this year. The product will be available in select markets only. Many of the features as well as improvements come from the feedback of the developers into the plan.
Hardware specifics are not yet fully disclosed by Dell but the 13.3-inch XPS 13 will have reasonable hardware specifications. Currently, the XPS 13 models have Intel graphics card, 4GB of RAM, a solid state drive, and a shiny 1366×768 screen. Users will have an option for an i5 or i7 processors.
Experts commend Dell’s effort in serving developer audience with Project Sputnik. However, if Dell wants to capitalize on Linux-based users, it has to start focusing on improving hardware enablement in a sustainable manner and understanding the upstream ecosystem. It is important for Dell to know that open drivers for hardware are not simply an ideological preference because they are the only way to ensure a sustainable long-term support for hardware components in the Linux environment.
Overall, the laptop is a compelling one for software developers although it is a little disappointing that it lacks a 1440×900 screen.