Dell Ultrabook XPS 13 Developer Edition – Ubuntu 12.04 – Project Sputnik

Background

On Friday, November 29th, Dell made the Ultrabook XPS 13 Developer Edition available for order initially at $1549 and then later correct the price to $1449, bringing the price below the comparable Windows 8 version.
At first impression, this product appears amazing. The open sourced drivers, software available on github page, cloud focused tools to quickly pull down the correct developer tool, all the incorporated community feedback/support, and the focused hardware specifications.
Over the years, the main reason myself and others I know have purchased Dell products are two-fold. One, Dell has built a solid reputation for producing quality products and providing decent warranties. Two, Dell has historically provided the customer many options for customizing the hardware. This offering comes with reason number one, but does not come with reason number two. I will focus this post on reason number two.

Dell claims to offer a “Developer Edition” Ultrabook. There is a fine line between a marketing tag line and the real title/focus/goal of a product. If a product is marketed for developers, the developer should be able to customize the hardware. In the course of developing software, every developer runs into hardware limitations, whether through an accidental infinite loop or intentionally through stretching a system’s capacity. Developers write software confined inside the limitations of hardware. To produce a product aimed at developers without allowing hardware customization is essentially one way to tie the developer’s hands.

There are certain hardware configurations that can be customized without impacting the drivers or software provided on the Ultrabook. At minimum, both the amount of RAM and the SSD capacity can be adjusted without requiring different software drivers. In some cases, the display, such as offering a 1080p option in addition to the current 720p, can be adjusted without requiring different software drivers.

Conclusion

Dell should rely on the roots they built off of that especially included the ability for consumers to affordable customized product hardware. Dell should at least provide an alternative configuration with, at minimum, more RAM, a smaller SSD or a higher resolution display. I’m sure many more developers would be willing to follow through and purchase this product if Dell allowed the developers the direct ability to select hardware components.

Competition

I’ve only come across two decent competitors in this niche market:
ZaReason UltraLap 430
Apple MacBook Air

Dell Ultrabook XPS 13 Developer Edition Hardware Specifications

As of Nov 29th 2012 – $1449
Initial Release Hardware Details:
3rd Generation Intel® Core™ i7-3517U (4M Cache, up to 3.0 GHz)
UBUNTU Linux 12.04
13.3″ HD 720p
8GB2 DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz
256GB Solid State Drive
Intel HD 4000
2.99 lbs

Links

Dell Ultrabook XPS 13 Laptop, Developer Edition – Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
Comparable Ultrabook through ZaReason
Comparable MacBook Air
Comments on Barton George’s Blog
Sputnik Github Page
Ubuntu Image and PPA information
Dell Forum for Project Sputnik

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