Dell’s XPS 13 DE Ships With Ubuntu 14.04 Making It Arguably the Most Powerful Linux-Based Laptop
There was a time when Linux enthusiasts felt left out by the big players in the PC world as computers that launched with any Linux-based OS are mostly not as powerful as their Windows and MAC counterparts.
Dell’s “Project Sputnik” is looking to change that with the arrival of its XPS 13 Developer Edition. The laptop sports the same hardware that is mostly found on high-end PCs. These include 4K resolution displays, Intel’s Skylake processors and thunderbolt 3 interconnectors. The company is hoping that these upgrades will bring a more sexier appeal to the somewhat dull Linux-based lineups.
The project was invented about four years ago by Barton George, who by the way is a senior principal engineer at the CTO office at DELL and also a vocal Linux enthusiast.
Apparently, Mr .George wanted to focus on bringing Linux to Ultrabooks, a form factor which was pretty new at that time. With Dell finally giving in after a relentless push by Barton George, they provided him with the newest hardware available then Barton and his team began refining the Linux OS for those computers.
Initially, there were some doubts casted over “Project Sputnik” because it wasn’t seen as a huge money grabber like devices based on Windows, as the slow but steady growth of the need for Linux-Based computers continued, acceptance of the project has grown within the company and has since widened its reach to the Open-source developer community — with the creation and distribution of developer tools, drivers and software for tablets, Laptops and other emerging Linux-based form factors.
According to Barton “Linux serves a niche but important market” a market that Dell is looking to be a leader in.
As “Project Sputnik” grows in strength so does the demand for Linux Laptops and project creator claimed that he has seen Mac users switched to Linux with their maiden computer being the XPS 13 DE. The switch for those familiar with OSX isn’t that complicated because Mac is based on Unix but the same cannot be said about other OS users and they might find using Linux-based OSs — especially with limited technical skills — a bit daunting as trivial tasks like finding and loading drivers might to be sometimes challenging and not as straightforward as they are sometimes accustomed to.
Bringing Project Sputnik to the masses wasn’t an easy journey, especially with XPS 13 DE. Initially, Dell wanted to launch both the Linux-based and Windows variants together but due to the delay in Canonical’s release of drivers for the Skylake chips — because the laptop is launched with Ubuntu version 14.04 — ,the Linux version had to wait a little longer.
With Dell being the only major manufacturer with a feasible plan for the Linux community, the patient had to be exercised on several occasions because the company would sometimes create drivers for the upcoming technologies, then has to wait for the market to grow for this invention to have any significant impact.
Driver creation and development requires Dell to work with all the hands involved in making the devices. For example, the OS developer (Canonical) and processor manufacturer (Intel) or other hardware makers as all of them need to coordinate in creating a seamless working environment for both hardware and software, a process which is sometimes tricky and is in most cases the culprit behind delayed releases and push back dates.
According to Barton George, communications between all parties involved is becoming more detailed allowing for a speedier workflow.
Docking support is a feature on a rise on recent modern day computers — brings more expansion ports and allows for additional peripherals to connect to the computer — , with features already supported on the Windows version, Dell is working on the adding it to the Ubuntu variant.
The XPS13 DE will not be limited to just Ubuntu as Dell can certify the laptop to work with other Linux distributions according to Barton George since many drivers developed for the laptop are “Upstream” to the Linux Kernel.