With its Project Sputnik laptop, Dell hopes to lure Linux-loving developers back into its camp and perhaps even get some who defected to Mac OSX to return to the open source fold. The laptop bundles Ubuntu, tools and an on-ramp to github repositories.
Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth
What is it that web developers want? That’s what Dell is trying to find out with its just-launched Project Sputnik, an “experimental” laptop bundled with Ubuntu Linux plus utilities, and with an easy on-ramp to github repositories coming soon. Sputnik looks like Dell’s attempt to wrest the attention of the many web developers that have defected to OS X, but chafe at the restrictions Apple’s walled garden imposes on them.
Most Linux distributions come with a downloadable LAMP stack to jump start development. What Dell is doing is giving developers a quick way to find and install a software stack from github so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel, said Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady, who consulted with Dell on this project. “If I’m new to PHP or Java or Android, I won’t have to figure out what a capable stack looks like. I can use a cookbook based on others who’ve done it before.”
Peter Eddy, a developer at Boston-based Gazelle, is intrigued. “This sounds like something I had been looking for years before I switched to OS X. I used to use Linux on laptops but it was always a gamble that it would actually work, especially the WiFi and suspend and resume,” he said. Project Sputnik should see traction from Linux developers who defected to the Mac but might come back to save money, he added.
Interestingly, there is no analogous Dell developer laptop for Windows or the other Linux distributions, although that could change, a Dell spokeswoman said. O’Grady said he is not aware of any comparable developer-focused laptops from Hewlett-Packard or other laptop makers. Given the importance of developers to the overall ecosystem, that is somewhat surprising.