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Here's a look Inside Dell's strategy for Linux PCs

Agam Shah | March 21, 2016
Dell wants more Mac and Windows users to move to Linux with its Project Sputnik effort

At the heart of Project Sputnik is the open-source ethos to work as a community. Dell engineers work with open-source developers and hardware companies to bring support for the latest hardware to Linux.

"It's not just a hub and spoke where people are asking us questions and we are answering back," George said. "We put in our effort, and the community comes and expands on it."

The XPS 13 DE isn't limited to Ubuntu alone. Dell can certify XPS 13 to work with other Linux distributions, as many drivers developed for the laptop are "upstreamed" to the Linux kernel, George said.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Project Sputnik is building support for basic components like processors, storage and memory.

"It's less about bells and whistles that have made the big difference, it's more about the meats and potatoes," George said.

Not everything runs smoothly. Dell had to scramble to develop the tools to support higher laptop screen resolutions and memory. The company, in some cases, starts work on developing drivers for upcoming technologies but often waits for the market to develop.

Driver development requires Dell to work with OS maker Canonical and the hardware manufacturers. Coordination among the entities can be tricky, and can result in some push-back, but the process is getting smoother, George said.

Dell is working to bring docking support to XPS 13 DE, which will bring more expansion ports to the laptop. Docking support has already been built into the Windows laptops.

Linux doesn't have some cool features like Windows Hello in Windows 10, which allows users to log into laptops through biometric authentication. That isn't something Dell can control until the feature is built into the OS, George said.

One of the successes of Project Sputnik is the "lower-the-ocean" approach, making it easier for users to switch from Windows or Mac to Linux. But George is glad to see Microsoft embracing the open-source community and making SQL Server available for Linux.

"The recent announcement by Microsoft to offer their database on Linux and looking at the OS as not being as important ... it's good to see," George said.

 

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