More thoughts on Dell XPS 13 Laptop Project Sputnik

I’m glad to read that Dell pulled the trigger and after six month of the beta program Project Sputnik released the product. The web is full of news and comments about the Dell XPS 13 laptop, developer edition powered by Ubuntu. I’m less interested to debate the choice of pricing ($50 less than the Windows version) or screen resolution or the improvment in RAM size compared to the beta I have.

It’s more interesting for me to debate Luis Suarez Potts question “Why Ubuntu?”  My impression is that Dell keeps experimenting to check the business viability of Linux on the desktops. They want to see what sort of combination of software will make them sell more hardware. This comment directly from Barton George’s blog seems to confirm my impression:

project Sputnik began as a skunkworks effort. It was made possible by internal incubation fund designed to bring wacky ideas from around the company to life in order to tap innovation that might be locked up in people’s heads.

Would it make sense for Dell to ask other communities like Debian or Fedora to chime in this sort of innovative efforts? I’m not sure. I believe that for Dell it’s easier to ask Canonical to dedicate one engineer to maintain kernel patches for this specific hardware: both companies may win something out of this effort. Dell gets kernel patches and support from Canonical, Canonical gets reputation of developing a operating system viable enough to be sold and supported officially by Dell.  Ultimately Fedora and Debian users will benefit from it since kernel patches go upstream, they will be able to get their systems on the XPS 13.

My hope is that this experiment leads HP or Sony or Lenovo to enter in similar agreements with Red Hat or SuSE: more drivers, more support for desktop hardware, more choice and freedom for us GNU/Linux users.