Dell’s Project Sputnik is impressive; not only is the hardware high quality (the Dell XPS 13 is the best laptop I think Dell has ever made), but the simple fact that Project Sputnik started as just that, a project, and morphed into an actual product speaks volumes that Dell wants a presence in the Linux community. This has been further shown with Dell’s recent release of the Alienware X51 also pre-installed with Ubuntu. I’m not aware of any other industry leaders taking such an interest in the Linux community.
With Project Sputnik’s roots well planted, I am looking forward to following its progress and how much further input it accepts from the Linux community. With that being said, I have a couple ideas that I would love to see incorporated into the project.
The Linux community undoubtedly likes choices and customizations. Dell has already applied subtle changes to Project Sputnik’s Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition. On the bottom of the laptop is a metal base plate that has the Ubuntu logo laser etched instead of the Windows logo. I personally love these small changes. It creates a more unique piece of hardware and shows that Dell pays attention to detail. I would like to see this expanded with the addition of more logo choices. Not everyone wants to run Ubuntu and offering the option to laser etch logos for Fedora, RHEL, Gentoo, Arch, SUSE, etc. gives the user a more personalized laptop. An additional checkout option with a small picture of what the logo will look like would make this an easy addition. The same applies to the Super Key. Currently, the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition still has the Windows logo on the Super Key, but offering additional logo choices would make a customization that would be the first of its kind from any big name laptop manufacture (System76 currently replaces the Windows logo on the Super Key but only with the Ubuntu logo). Dell is the king of customization, if anybody can do it, they can.
Simply offering a high quality piece of hardware with Ubuntu pre-installed with proper hardware drivers is amazing in and of itself. Dell and Canonical have done great work to create proper hardware drivers and push the code upstream so other Linux distributions can benefit. Nevertheless, users will always want more. Not everyone will want to run Ubuntu. There are plenty of people out there running Fedora, RHEL, Gentoo, Arch, SUSE, etc., but it can take a good deal of effort to support multiple Linux distributions on just one piece of hardware. So, instead of offering to have other Linux distributions come pre-installed, simply offer the option to not have any OS installed and let the purchaser install whatever Linux distribution they choose. Offer that, with the eventual goal to provide other Linux distributions pre-installed with support. Of course the purchaser could simply install over the base Ubuntu install, but there is something special about being shipped a vanilla piece of hardware and installing whatever you want on it. It is hard to describe in words what that “something special” is (it probably varies from person to person), but it always comes down to the simple freedom to do whatever you want with the products you purchase.