Give Dell credit for wading into open source waters with "Project Sputnik," a pilot program to build a developer solution based on Ubuntu 12.04LTS. After six months of exploration and feedback from testers, Project Sputnik has now landed and is renamed Dell XPS 13 Laptop, Developer Edition. It's a thin and light 13.3-inch Ultrabook powered by Intel's Core i7 3517U processor and driven by Ubuntu, though you could potentially end up paying more versus a similarly spec'd Windows 7 model (with slower processor) or Windows 8 model (with half the storage space). Let's look at the hardware.
In a blog post, Dell said its Developer Edition laptop would run $1,549 but it actually starts at $1,449. For that, you get the above mentioned CPU along with 8GB of DDR3-1600 memory, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 256GB solid state drive (SSD), and 1 year of ProSupport.
It's a bit pricey for an Ultrabook, but the real turnoff for some is that Windows versions of the same model laptop have cheaper options available. A similarly spec'd XPS 13 Ultrabook with Windows 7 and 1 year of Enhanced Support starts at $1,300 (that's with a Core i5 3317U processor) , whereas the Windows 8 version runs $1,200, albeit with a 128GB SSD (there's no option to upgrade the Win 8 model to 256GB).
There are also cheaper setups to choose from in Windows-ville, starting at $1,000 for Windows 7 and $1,100 for Windows 8. To be fair, the Windows 7-based XPS 13 with same specs (Core i7 3317U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) runs $50 more than the Developer Edition after Dell dropped the price.
Dell's going after a different audience with its Developer Edition laptop, and perhaps the Windows versions come pre-loaded with third-party software to maintain a comparable price.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a Windows 7 equivalent was cheaper than the Linux-based Developer Edition. The model originally referenced actually comes with a slower processsor (Core i5 3317U versus Core i7 3517U). An identically spec'd Windows 7 XPS 13 starts at $1,500, or $50 more than the Developer Edition.
It appears Dell has been busy this morning updating specs and prices after this and similar stories hit the web. Whereas previously you could buy a comparable Windows 7 XPS 7 Ultrabook for less (or identically spec'd for $50 more), the site now shows that a Windows 7 XPS 13 Ultrabook selling for $1,450 comes with a Core i7 2637M, 4GB of DDR3-1333 RAM, and 256GB SSD.