System76 is one of only a handful of PC vendors that exclusively sells computers with Linux-based software. Up until now, that’s meant the company has chosen hardware that it could guarantee would work well with custom firmware and the Ubuntu Linux operating system.
But unlike larger PC companies (think Acer, Apple, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and HP), System76 hasn’t designed or manufactured its own hardware. Instead it used OEM/ODM companies to do those things, instead focusing on the software.
Starting in 2018 though, you may be able to buy a System76 computer that was designed and built in-house.
The company says it plans to start with desktops, since they’re “easier to work with.” Eventually System76 hopes to expand to notebooks as well.
Odds are that most potential customers won’t notice a huge difference between custom-built System76 computers and those made by someone else. But like most things Linux-related, the goal isn’t just to provide a better experience, it’s to provide a more open experience.
In addition to giving System76 more control over the hardware, the decision to design and manufacture its own computers gives the company the ability to share the information. CAD files for System76 computers will be open source, allowing anyone with the appropriate skills and equipment to build or modify their own cases based on the company’s designs.