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08 May 2012, 15:06

Dell announces prototype development laptop with Ubuntu

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Barton George, Dell's Director of Marketing, Web & Tech Vertical, has announced the Sputnik project, investigating the feasibility of a development laptop, called the Sputnik, that runs Ubuntu and is aimed at mobile and cloud developers. Sputnik is being funded for a duration of six months by an internal incubation fund within Dell.

The laptop is pre-installed with an image based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS that has been optimised for Dell's XPS13 Ultrabook. The project has already solved problems with the brightness control and the WiFi hotkey and is now working on issues with the touchpad which currently only works as a single touch pointing device with no scrolling. The install also includes several development packages such as version control systems and automatic deployment tools. Plans for the future include the automatic fetching of setup profiles for other software packages from GitHub.

The announcement does not indicate if Dell will be selling the Ultrabook with Ubuntu pre-installed directly to customers. In a video interview published by Dell, George says that Sputnik "is not a product right now", and that the approach at the moment is to give some models away to "key influencers" and partners of the company. He goes on to hint that if the project is regarded as a success, more models might follow and that Sputnik itself might become an integrated development platform for cloud applications.

Barton George talks about the plans for the Sputnik project

Dell used to sell desktops and laptops pre-installed with Ubuntu but around the middle of 2010 those disappeared from the lineup of its web store. The H's associates at heise, calling Dell anonymously, confirmed that the only computers currently being sold with Linux pre-installed by Dell are running Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

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