Made With Developers in Mind: The Ubuntu Ultrabook™

This week, Dell released a new Ultrabook™ that is branded towards developers. This is part of Project Sputnik, an intriguing internal conversation that centered on creating a laptop that was better suited towards what developers are really looking for.

Project Sputnik

Project Sputnik evolved as an internal conversation at Dell, and was centered on the foundational premise of how to enable developers to do what they do, better. Here’s a quote from Barton George, director of marketing for Dell’s Web vertical:

“Sputnik is part of an effort by Dell to better understand and serve the needs of developers in Web companies. We want to find ways to make the developer experience as powerful and simple as possible. And what better way to do that than beginning with a laptop that is both highly mobile and extremely stylish, running the 12.04 LTS release of Ubuntu Linux.” - Source

The culmination of Project Sputnik is the release of the XPS 13 Developer Edition Ultrabook, which is slated to be the first system aimed specifically at developers. Tools for testing and production are included; with a cloud back end powered by Open Stack; basically, a client to cloud solution for developers that should enable seamless project development:

“We’re super excited about the XPS 13 Laptop, Developer Edition, and want to thank all the developers who have been actively participating in helping us create a laptop designed specifically for them. Basically, we loaded a super sleek Dell machine with Ubuntu to give developers the essentials they want while staying true to our core values of openness and affordability. But the power of the community input really helped make this a big success.” - Source


Let’s look at what’s under the hood of the XPS 13 Developer Edition Ultrabook, shall we?

  • I7 CPU
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 256 GB memory
  • Comes preloaded with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS “Precise Pangolin”
  • Screen resolution 1366 x 768
  • Intel HD 4000 graphics
  • Weight: 2.99 lbs.
  • Gorilla Glass
  • Six cell battery
  • Audio=Waves Maxx Audio 4.0
  • Laptop measures 6mm at the thinnest point, 18mm at the thickest
  • Usual drivers included, but also comes bundled with a cloud launcher and profile tool (more about those in a minute)

This machine is marketed differently than a comparable Windows PC simply because it’s configured differently. It’s designed specifically for developers and comes with bet versions of open source software (bundled with developer tools), and includes one full year of support for any issues that might come up.

Here’s more about the OS from Ubuntu Release Manager Kate Stewart:

“For PC users, Ubuntu 12.04 supports laptops, desktops, and netbooks with a unified look and feel based on an updated version of the desktop shell called 'Unity,' which introduces 'Head-Up Display' search capabilities. Finding and installing software using the Ubuntu Software Center is now easier thanks to improvements in speed, search, and usability.” - Source

To get a sneak peek of what this OS has to offer, check out this slide show.

Profile Tool

Basically, the profile tool gives developers carte blanche access to libraries on GitHub in order to create their projects that much more quickly. Rather than stuffing this new Ultrabook device with a bunch of potentially deadweight tools and utilities for every possible developer situation, they worked with a select group of developers to create a tool that pulls developer profiles from a GitHub repository.

Using the profile tool, if you want to create a certain type of app or work within a certain code ecosystem, you can use this utility to locate something on GitHub that is similar to what you’ve got in mind and copy it to your machine. These profiles will potentially contain all the components you need to really get going: frameworks, code snippets, libraries, etc.

There’s also apparently the possibility of hot shot coders (of which there are many, right?) to create something called “signature profiles”, where basically celebrity coders can share something they are excited about with others so they can play around with it a bit.

Cloud Launcher

The cloud launcher enables developers to create “mini cloud” environments to simulate a project on the local side, and then deploy it to the cloud when finished.  This tool enables developers to go smoothly from client to test to production to cloud; making one part of the development process that much easier.

Both the profile tool and cloud launcher tool are found on GitHub and are preloaded on the laptop, making setting up development environments and deployment processes much less of a headache. It’s all about removing roadblocks and getting closer to the finished project.

 What do you think?

If you’re a developer in the market for a new workstation, does this machine fit the bill? What do you think about a PC pre-loaded with an open source operating system aimed specifically at developers? Do you think this is a good prediction of a whole new line of computers aimed at a segment of the population that uses them in very different ways than most “average” consumers? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section below.