In the age of Android and the cloud, is there still a market for desktop Linux? Dell (DELL) seems to think so. The company continues to invest in its Ubuntu-based open source laptop, called Project Sputnik, which it recently rejuvenated with new engineering resources and other support -- and unveiled new versions of Ubuntu-powered machines.
Dell introduced the first Project Sputnik laptop just short of a year ago, and released an upgraded version a few months later. Now, the company has announced the availability of a new, third-generation edition featuring enhanced hardware specifications, including touch support.
As a high-end machine that is powered by Ubuntu Linux and comes with cloud programming tools built in to the software stack, the Sputnik laptop's target audience is developers. That may seem like a small niche, but Dell continues to support the small Project Sputnik team as the initiative nears its first birthday -- and is also adding new members. Project leader Barton George recently announced that the company has assembled "an intrepid group of developers and architects within Dell" to support further development.
In particular, the new engineering resources will go into the profiling tool that Dell is building as an open source project on GitHub. The tool allows programmers to build environments for testing cloud software on the Sputnik laptop without cluttering the base system. George admitted that development of this part of the Sputnik software stack has not proceeded as rapidly as he would like, but appears optimistic that the new talent Dell is throwing behind it will speed things up.
George also reports that the developers behind Docker, an open source project for building application containers like the kind that will provide the infrastructure for the Sputnik profiling tool, will begin working with the Sputnik team as well. So both internally and externally, Dell is beefing up its commitment to open source engineering.
That doesn't mean Dell thinks the masses are poised to clamor for Linux-based machines. The company has been there and done that -- without any great success -- when it launched a line of Ubuntu-based desktops and laptops targeted at ordinary consumers back in 2007. But as the only mainstream PC vendor offering a laptop based entirely on open source software, Dell stands out from the pack -- and it apparently hopes to continue doing so as it expands Project Sputnik.