Linux fans in Europe have reason to celebrate this week with Dell’s announcement that its “Sputnik” XPS 13 laptop powered by Ubuntu, which the company released in the United States in December 2012, is now available on the other side of the ocean as well. As a bonus, Dell has added some hardware upgrades to the laptop for all markets. Read on for the full scoop.
The Sputnik laptop has generated a lot of headlines in the open-source world since Dell announced the initiative last year. It renewed hopes that the company, whose commitment to the line of Ubuntu-powered desktops and laptops it had launched in 2007 seemed by some measures to be waning, might reinvigorate its efforts to sell computers with Linux preinstalled. And it also got people excited about a high-power laptop designed to meet the needs of developers working on software to run in the cloud.
It turns out that Project Sputnik is not actually closely linked to Dell’s other initiatives on the desktop-Linux front. Still, the news on Monday that Dell had expanded sales of the machine to Europe is a sign that it remains committed to the Sputnik initiative, and to expanding its open-source offerings beyond North America. For Europeans disappointed by the relative lack of open-source friendly OEMs in their market (ZaReason doesn’t ship outside of North America, for instance), the move also promises to bring more options to the table.
In addition, Dell has also added some minor hardware upgrades to the Sputnik laptop — the latest iteration of which the company is calling “Sputnik 2,” to distinguish it from the original version — by improving the display resolution, which is now 1080p. (The price, alas, has also increased to $1549 to “reflect the upgrade to the improved display,” according to Dell.) The rest of the hardware profile remains unchanged, and still brings high-end performance in all components. The updated version of the machine will be available in both the American and European markets.
The operating system, too, remains the same, in the form of Ubuntu 12.04, the latest longterm-support (LTS) version of the Linux operating system from Canonical.
In announcing the expanded availability of the Sputnik laptop, Barton George, the Dell engineer at the head of the project, also provided updates on the two related software tools his team is building to assist the cloud developers for whom the laptop is tailored. While the “mad rush to get Sputnik and then Sputnik 2 out the door” limited work on those tools, he wrote, they will receive much more attention now. When mature, these open-source platforms, which include a profile tool for quickly rolling out development environments and a “cloud launcher” for deploying mock cloud environments locally in order to test software, will bring some valuable new features to the open-source cloud development community.