Dell’s to sell Ubuntu ultrabooks this fall, Project Sputnik graduates from beta

Dell plans to start selling a limited number of laptops running Ubuntu Linux this fall. The first will be a Dell XPS 13 ultrabook aimed at developers and running Ubuntu 12.04.

Dell XPS 13

For the past few months the company has been running an exploratory project based on the idea. It’s called Project Sputnik, and Dell already offers a disk image that you can download and install on an XPS 13 laptop. Dell also recently announced a beta program that would allow developers to sign up for an opportunity to purchase discounted XPS 13 models with Ubuntu pre-loaded.

This fall, the project will exit beta and offer the laptops more widely — although not too widely. Dell is still calling the computer a developer laptop, and the company says the laptops will be offered in “select geographies,” which is another way of saying they won’t be available worldwide.

As for developer software, they’ll include software for developing cloud-based apps on a laptop by creating “microclouds,” whatever that means.

This won’t be the first time Dell’s offered notebooks with Ubuntu. A few years ago the company offered netbooks with the popular Linux-based operating system, as well as some higher-end laptops. But at the moment, the only notebooks available from Dell ship with Windows.

By the time the XPS 13 with Ubuntu is available from Dell, the ultrabook will be nearly a year old, and Ubuntu 12.04 will be around half a year old — but Ubuntu 12.04 is an LTS, or Long Term Service release for Ubuntu. That makes it a pretty good choice for deployment by a big name PC maker looking for a little stability. Ubuntu releases new builds of Ubuntu every 6 months, but LTS releases only come around every 18 months.

The XPS 13 ultrabook features an Intel Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processor, a solid state disk with up to 256GB of storage, a 47Whr battery, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, and a mini DisplayPort.

The laptop weighs about 3 pounds and measures 12.4″ x 8.1″ x 0.71″.

  • digi_owl

    Best guess, they will limit this to english speaking market at first.

  • ddevine

    It’s a Dell. Nobody will be missing out on anything but pain if they don’t have one.

  • celem

    To me, the most significant question is will this be locked to Ubuntu via UEFI secure boot? I read “Machines that ship as “Ubuntu certified” will be required to have an Ubuntu key configured in their UEFI signature databases.” What if I want to switch to some other distro?

    • Mr. T

      It seems unlikely that they’d ship the machine with a different secure boot setup than the one Microsoft is requiring for Windows 8 certification. The spec for that now requires an option to turn off secure boot. I think it unlikely that you’d be locked into Ubuntu (or Windows 8).

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristine.theriault Kristine Theriault

    This is awesome that the free Linux software will finally be pre-installed on Dell’s. I use Ubuntu 12.04 and Windows 7 on two different computers, each having its own advantages. I manage my business on the go and I use Bitrix24 software to see and track my employees in real time. I’m excited that Ubuntu will be sold on some upcoming Dell’s because it’s just nice to use a different OS once in a while.

  • Tribaal

    Why, but why in the world do they not offer more than 4Gb of RAM to a machine targeted at developers?

    • Mr. T

      Because by “developer” they actually mean *web developer*, not those of us who develop things requiring lots of RAM, discrete graphics, and long compile times.

  • Tsais

    I can’t figure out why Dell was only asking us about software that should be on the XPS 13… before anything else, that thing needs a better resolution to develop on it

  • Benita Bolland

    In addition to this, Project Sputnik also offers full hardware support and support for developer profiles. Though, different profiles for different people or different tasks are not something new, the ability to store those profiles remotely in a repository via software management tool is cool. :)

    Benita Bolland