Dell brings Ubuntu to tablets with new Inspiron hybrids

Dell's new hybrids include the Inspiron 11 3000, which starts at US$449.99, and Inspiron 13 7000, for which the price was not available

The Linux-based Ubuntu OS is finding its way into tablets with Dell's latest Inspiron hybrids, which can function as tablets and laptops.

The PC maker is offering Ubuntu as an OS option alongside Windows 8 on its new hybrids, the Inspiron 11 3000, which has an 11.6-inch screen, and Inspiron 13 7000, which has a 13-inch screen.

The hybrids turn from laptops into tablets when the screen is rotated 360 degrees, much like Lenovo's Yoga, which pioneered the design. Dell announced the 19.4-millimeter thick hybrids at the Computex trade show in Taipei on Monday.

Dell wants to offer Ubuntu on touchscreen devices, and has the OS in an experimental XPS 13 ultrabook called "Project Sputnik," which has a high starting price of $1,089. The ultrabook is popular with developers building Linux drivers for ultrabooks and touchscreen devices.

However the viability of Ubuntu as a tablet OS remains in question, especially when compared to Apple's iOS, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows 8. The latest Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is the first version of the OS that has an interface for desktops and tablets in a single package, much like Windows 8. Users can select a desktop interface or a touch UI called Unity 8 for tablets.

The Inspiron 11 3000 starts at US$449, and the Ubuntu option will be available in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Japan starting in June. The price for the Inspiron 13 7000 was not immediately available, but Ubuntu will be available as an option worldwide starting in September, according to a specification sheet.

The Inspiron 11 is based on the low-end Celeron and Pentium processors, which are based on the Bay Trail architecture. The hybrid weighs roughly 1.39 kilograms, and offers around eight hours of battery life. The screen can display images at a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, which is standard in most budget laptops and hybrids today. It has one USB 3.0 port, a 500GB hard drive and 4GB of memory.

The Inspiron 13 has faster chip options with Intel's Core i3 and i5 processors based on the latest Haswell microarchitecture. It is 1.66 kilograms, and is available with an optional high-definition screen that can display images at a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. The PC has two USB 3.0 ports, a 500GB hard drive and up to 8GB of memory.

The hybrids also feature a basic webcam, an HDMI 1.4a port and a media card reader. Users can select Dell's standard b/g/n Wi-Fi or Intel's 802.11ac Wi-Fi module for wireless networking.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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