HP is launching a new laptop, pre-loaded with System76’s Pop!_OS. I had a chat with CEO and founder Carl Richell to find out how it happened.

Image: Sundry Photography/Adobe Stock

System76 has been one of my favorite companies for a very long time. Not only do they produce the single best desktop system on the market, they also have a line of killer Linux-powered laptops.

This is an open-source company not afraid to push boundaries and create more and better opportunities for themselves and the open-source community. To this end, System76 recently revealed that they’ve partnered with HP to create a new Linux laptop, called the HP Dev One. This 14″ laptop has a pretty impressive spec sheet that looks like this:

  • CPU: 8-core AMD Ryzen 7 Pro.
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon.
  • Memory:16GB (upgradable to 64GB)
  • Storage: 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD

As of this moment, there’s no word on specs for battery, ports, connectivity or display type, but the HP Dev One description reads: “Get ready for a laptop that’s customized for the way you code. Featuring preinstalled Pop!_OS Linux and a tuned Linux keyboard with a Super key, HP Dev One was designed with developers in mind.”

The cost of a base unit will run $1,099, and although you cannot pre-order yet, you can get a notification when the laptop is ready to order from the HP Dev One website.

With all of that said, I posed a few questions to Carl Richell, the intrepid leader behind System76, about what this all means. Let’s find out what he had to say.

SEE: Linux turns 30: Celebrating the open source operating system (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

TechRepublic interviews Carl Richell

What brought about the deal between System76 and HP?

HP contacted us last year and our teams spent time getting to know each other. They naturally wanted to understand our capabilities. I imagine it’s difficult for a large company to collaborate with a small company and later learn that they’re not really up to the project. Meetings in Denver helped us hop over that hurdle.

We wanted to know the scope and importance of the project at HP. As their vision came into focus, our confidence grew that this was a serious project with aims and objectives that align with our own.

To ensure a quality product, we participated in component decisions down to the embedded controller on the motherboard. Our marketing teams worked together on the HP Dev One site, and our team trained the HP support team and will provide backup to ensure customers receive the same quality of support System76 is known for.

This isn’t a token product just to have a Linux option alongside Windows. It’s a full-throated effort to highlight and market a laptop designed for Linux, with a spotlight on the unique features that Pop!_OS provides.

What of the suspicions being bandied about that System76 might be in negotiations to be purchased by HP?

Rumors are fun, but they’re just that.

Can you imagine a day when the System76/HP laptops will find their way to big box stores?

I don’t consider our products getting into big box stores as a sign of success or some sort of milestone. It’s not a channel that piques my interest.

Does this mean System76 is going to abandon creating an in-house laptop?

Not at all. On the contrary, I hope this project offers opportunities to accelerate our in-house design and manufacturing work, particularly with regard to the supply chain.

Our Thelio desktop line was the perfect place to start. With the Launch keyboard, we learned new design and manufacturing techniques that apply to laptops. Now we’re onto laptops. Having built the factory, we have the manufacturing bug. It’s incredibly challenging but thoroughly enjoyable building physical products. I don’t see us shaking the bug.

What about open source? Does HP share the same ideas and ideals about open-source as System76?

In every aspect of this project, from the first call on, HP demonstrated a care and understanding of the importance and value of open source. Every line of code we wrote for the project is open source. We even wrote an open source Linux app to configure the buttons on the HP Creator Mouse that will be offered alongside HP Dev One.

This is a crack in the door. The more participants the better. With success, we can push the door wide open and help drive the Linux desktop further into the mainstream.

What’s in store for System76 and Pop!_OS in the future?

This is the most consequential year in our history thus far. The second half of the year is packed with product releases that I’m sure will delight our customers. Our in-house designed and manufactured laptop project is moving forward full-steam for a release sometime next year.

In just over a week, the entire engineering, design and QA teams are gathering to chart the course forward for Pop!_OS including the new COSMIC desktop environment and decisions about how we architect the long-term core of the product. It’s an exciting time.

Tell us why you think the System76 mission is important to consumers, developers and IT in general.

Our ethos encapsulates all of the characteristics that are central to the future of technology. We believe in open source software, open firmware, open hardware and the right to repair. Our uniqueness is that it’s all housed under one company.

We view the importance of open source through the lens of how it empowers other people to create. The technology we develop over the coming years will demonstrate that vision in even more impactful ways.

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