Project Sputnik – Beta Cosmonauts chosen

First of all, I would like to thank all the applicants to the Project Sputnik beta program for their patience.  Since we announced the program last month we have been working on implementation, traveling mostly uncharted waters here at Dell.  After working through countless details and seeing what could actually be done in a timely and supportable manner, we have come up with our list of Beta cosmonauts.

The Beta Cosmonauts

We had hoped to make the beta program worldwide, but after digging in we found that the resources needed to execute on it turned out to be more than our little Dell/Canonical team could handle.  As a result we have decided to narrow our Beta effort to the United States.  From those applicants from the US, which represented close to half of the total number of applicants, we have selected 455 people.

It wasn’t easy to narrow the list but we picked people who represent a cross section of the developer population from start ups to large companies to universities.  They represent a wide variety of skills and experience and are the people who we feel will be most vocal and participatory and who best represent the Sputnik ethos.

What they get – Updated Aug 30

Tomorrow we will send out the emails to everyone in the program letting them know whether they have been selected or not.  Those selected, and who are still interested in participating, will be able to purchase the high-end XPS13 at $1,199 rather than $1,499*.   As the program continues we will continue to refine the software.  In return…

*Update Aug 30: We took the feedback re the desire for a deeper discount and went back to see if there was any more cost we could drive out the base price.  We found a couple of places and were able to lower the base price from $1,499 to $1,349.99.  Applying the 20% discount to this we are now able to offer the system to Beta cosmonauts at $1,079.99 ($120 less than before.  It’s not a huge difference but I assume every little bit counts).

What we are asking of them

  • Load the software: While we had hoped to be able to offer the beta systems with Ubuntu pre-loaded this has turned out to be a lot more difficult than we had thought and would require shifting resources from our launch in the fall.  As a result, unfortunately the systems will come with Windows pre-loaded.  All the Beta cosmonauts will need to do is follow the directions for installing Ubuntu as listed on the Canonical page.
  • Be vocal and transparent:  We want the cosmonauts to blog and tweet (hashtag #ProjectSputnik) about their experience as a beta tester, but if asked or when appropriate disclose that they received a discount from Dell.
  • Use it and contribute:  As beta testers we want the cosmonauts to use the system, try things out, file bugs and share their experience with us and each other on the project Sputnik Forum.  It would also be awesome if they could even contribute a profile or two when we make the profile tool available.
  • Support: given that this is a beta program we won’t have official support for the hardware or software.  That being said we will try our best to help out the cosmonauts via the forum and bug tracker.

Thanks again to everyone who applied to the program.  Dell and Canonical are very excited to hear what people think of the systems and learn what we can do to make them better.

Key links

Pau for now…


49 Responses to Project Sputnik – Beta Cosmonauts chosen

  1. Eh, yet again those outside of US get the short end of the stick. Shame

  2. Nathan Rockhold says:

    Have you built mini display port support into the kernel?

    • Just checked with one of our developers, his response: The minidisplayport works fine. I’ve used it with both minidisplayport->hdmi adapters and minidisplayport->vga adapters.

  3. jashsu says:

    Any chance to open up a couple more Beta Cosmonaut slots for US applicants? Missed out on the initial signup :,(

    • Hi Jashsu, As we get some declines back we may have some open spots. Stay tuned…

      • Thanks Barton, look forward to it. Coming from work with mobile platform test tools, i’m particularly interested in the opportunity to provide feedback on the microclouds/deploy aspect as it applies (if it applies) to the Android profile.

        By the way you should update your Google+ stream more often! Plenty of Ubuntu and Linux users and software developers around there.

      • Kyle says:

        Barton I too missed the signup. Will you make a blog post regarding new openings? This is a great project and I really want to help as much as I can.

  4. markdrury says:

    Indeed, if you find yourself in need of one more open source-loving cosmonaut I would love to participate in this project. Regards,

    Mark Drury

  5. When you say: “would require shifting resources from our launch in the fall.” does this mean that a full pre-loaded consumer launch is still going ahead?
    Will the Fall (or Autumn as we call it in this part of the world) launch be global or limited to the US?

  6. tee says:

    Too bad us Canadians also didn’t get a chance. Some of us are logistically closer than some Americans…

  7. dominicrice says:

    Why waste my time encouraging me to apply and not bother mentioning in the application that developers not from the US won’t be accepted?

    • To try and put this into perspective, this a scrappy skunkworks project within Dell moving as fast as we can. We are borrowing people’s time to execute on this and traveling all sorts of uncharted waters here at Dell as we make the transition from incubation project to mainstream supported product.

      When we originally sent out the note asking for Beta applicants A) we never thought we would get the amount of responses we did and B) our initial review didn’t show the logistics and time it would take to implement the beta program globally.

      When we saw the time and resources it would actually take to make this beta program global we realized that driving it worldwide would have meant pushing back the autumn launch. We wanted to get direct input and feedback into our offering so when given the choice between no beta program and a US only beta program, we chose the US focused beta.

      We are learning rapidly as we go and appreciate your patience. Thanks!

      • Callum says:

        Perhaps a mitigating factor for all of us non-USA techs is to make some statements about whether the sputnik hardware is the same as the retail XPS13 so at least EU citizens can buy the retail XPS13 (& cash in the rejected/rescinded Windows 7 licence if they want to (or VM it)) in the knowledge that they can download ubuntu/linux flavour and use it on their retail hardware.

        I don’t care about the price reduction – I just want a good hardware config that will work with Linux – for me, my XPS M1330N is not a toy but my workplace.


        judging by the response and your previous comments, it looks like this shouldn’t be a skunkworks project and should actually be a strategic manouvre by Dell.

      • Hi Callum,

        There is nothing different about the XPS13 hardware used for project Sputnik, it should be the same as the retail XSP13.

        Regarding your last remark, i should have been a bit clearer. We recently received official blessing and are currently making our transition from skunkworks project to official Dell effort. That being said, while we are starting to get official support we are still out ahead of them at this point. 🙂

    • Even I am not considered (Europe) but I do not find it a time waste that I have applied and contributed with ideas as I expect that sooner or later those machines may be available at my location too.

  8. Ah, balls to Dell then for leaving out Europe (a market which has twice the population of the US for those of you with a
    US-centric world view).

    I’ll buy a Zoostorm laptop without an OS and install Ubuntu myself.

    • Hi Michael,

      I would have loved to have made this worldwide. As ive mentioned above, given the resources currently available and the amount of work needed to launch a global beta program, it would have meant pushing back both the beta and the product launch. Our choice was therefore no beta or a US only beta. Since we wanted at least some feedback before launch we opted for US only.


  9. Well I am highly disappointed!!
    I live in South Africa and have been using Ubuntu for many years now…I am I highly enthusiastic developer and would fit perfectly into the program.

  10. paolo muratore-ginanneschi says:


    I really appreciate your efforts. There is still something really I do not understand. Why DELL does not simply offer the old good Series N option on the XPS13?

    Kind Regards

    • Callum says:

      … typing this from the old XPS M1330N. I’m also confused why it is so hard to offer an N option for the XPS13.

      as a Scot, i’m also dissappointed to have been left out of the programme – a true beta test needs to have a wide variety of individuals; choosing users from a single country is just going to improve USA-only use cases.

  11. I guess I understand, but don’t count on getting many reports about any i18n issues then.

  12. Andrew says:

    For those who feel left out, you can buy on ebay or other places a refurbished i7/256GB XPS13 for less than $1100, and a new one for $1200 shipped. So, in return for our help, support, testing, bug reports, etc., Dell is offering zero discount. You don’t need to be accepted in the program to participate.

    I’m sure the high pricing is not Barton’s fault, but I’m going to stick to my Macbook Air w/Ubuntu.

    • Hi Andrew as I mention in the update above we were able to go back and knock off an additional $120 so beta participants can now get the XPS13 for $1,079.99. Not a huge drop but we figure every little bit helps 🙂 If you can get a refurb’d hi end XPS13 for less go for it, we will take your help and thoughts either way!

      • Anders says:

        If I buy a XPS13 with Windows, how can I get a return for the cost of MS Windows? I don’t use it and don’t want to pay for something I don’t use.

      • Anders, we looked into this when we were setting up the beta program but havent found a solution yet. We pinged our contact again recently, ill let you know what we find.


  13. – Just for US citizens.
    – High price.
    – Shipped with Windows.

    This is none of what the project was about from the start..
    Shame shame..

    Macbook Air with Ubuntu is a much better choice.

    • Hi Karl,

      The goals of the project haven’t changed, this is just the best we could do for the beta program in a short amount of time. We could have solved for the issues you raised but that would have taken resources from the fall launch and both the product and the beta program would have been late. We decided it would be better to act than wait. Our goal is deliver, get feedback and improve.


  14. shemminger says:

    Does upstream ( kernel contain all the drivers?
    Does the USB-3 docking station work with Linux?

    • Hi Stephen,
      I just checked with the team: The upstream kernel doesnt yet have all the drivers but thats our goal. Regarding the docking station, it doesnt appear that there are linux drivers currently available.


  15. Ryan says:

    I already purched an XPS 13 before the beta program but I still want to help out. Are there any websites that the beta people have access to, for filing bug reports and such, that someone like me doesn’t have access too, if so can I get access to help out?


  16. […] I wasn’t prepared for the sheer awesomeness that is Ubuntu on this notebook. Big thanks to Barton George and the rest of the Dell crew for letting me […]

  17. Sameer Verma says:

    Just got my XPS 13 from work. I remember all the chatter from UDS-Q and it looks like the project is still on! Downloading ISO right now.

    • Awesome Sameer! Yep Sputnik is alive and kicking 🙂 If you’re comfortable sharing Id love to learn more about how you got your XPS13? Does work care that you are running ubuntu? did everyone get an XPS13 or could you pick from a couple of different offerings?


  18. Yann says:

    Hello, I’m greatly interested in this laptop – but there have been several comments made regarding high noise & heat -> for an example.

    Have these problems been sorted?

    • Hi Yann,

      I just confirmed with the team that this was addressed with BIOS updates changing some of the system settings. Everything coming out of the factory now should be fine.

      thanks for the interest!

  19. Stephen Hemminger says:

    I was concerned about the trackpad issues on XPS 13. Not sure how well driver for Cypress trackpad works in Linux.

    • Kyle F says:

      You do realize this is a beta program, right? The Cypress driver is in constant development. I applied to the beta program, got the computer, and immediately started patching the Cypress driver. Don’t expect perfection from a beta.

  20. […] mercados y a los consumidores en general por la buena aceptación que había tenido el programa. En esa oportunidad, hace solo algunos meses, mientras probaban la interrelación entre el hard y el soft mediante la […]

  21. […] mercados y a los consumidores en general por la buena aceptación que había tenido el programa. En esa oportunidad, hace solo algunos meses, mientras probaban la interrelación entre el hard y el soft mediante la […]

  22. […] Beta Cosmonauts Chosen – This is the post where Barton lets folks know that the beta participants will soon get an e-mail that entitles them to get a beta unit for $1,199 along with details of what we need from them so we can offer this as a product down the road.  […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: