System 76 creates a new OS for Linux Professionals


What’s Pop!_OS? Why is System76 creating yet another Linux-based operating system? Why can’t they just use something like elementary OS or Linux Mint? I will try to answer these questions for you.

System76 is a PC vendor that sells hardware to professionals who run their workloads on Linux. The Denver, Colorado based company is now building an operating system, dubbed Pop!_OS, for those professionals who use their computers to create; whether it’s artificial intelligence, sophisticated 3D models, computer science in academia, or ‘makers’ building new things.

I spotted Pixar using System76 hardware with RHEL when they open sourced their 3D rendering technology that was used for Dory. Aleph Objects, the company behind Lulzbot 3D printer, is also using System76 hardware in their offices. According to my sources other big consumers of System76 hardware includ Tesla, and some departments at Amazon and Google.

The new operating system will enable System76 to cater to the needs of these customers. “We know who our customers are and what kind of problems they are trying to solve,” said Ryan Sipes, Community Manager at System76, in an interview. “We can tailor an experience for them that increases their productivity, and makes Pop!_OS their first choice for working on their projects. The Linux desktop is 80% of our business, and so that is where our energy and focus is.”

Pop!_OS is based on Ubuntu and uses Gnome Shell, which unlike many other desktop environments, moves out of the way while offering extensive customization through extensions. Ubuntu base allows Pop!_OS to gain access to massive repositories of software. Sipes told me that the company already has agreements for distributions with Canonical, and it will continue to work with them in any capacity they require.

Since it’s an Ubuntu-based distribution it’s not going to fragment the Linux world and create one more distro for app developers to chase. Every single application that runs on Ubuntu will run on Pop!_OS.

The new operating system seems to be aligned with the company’s strategy to bring designing and manufacturing of their hardware in-house. Being a relatively smaller company, System 76 is in a unique position to respond to customer feedback and respond to their needs.

“We’ve been focusing our engineering effort on helping our customers achieve more and have a fantastic computer experience,” said Sipes. “This desire to create the best machines for our customers has driven our recent moves into manufacturing, and those same goals are also behind tailoring a beautiful software experience that is Pop!_OS.”

System 76 is not a Linux distribution that’s chasing the Windows 10 or macOS user. So why didn’t they pick some existing solution like Linux Mint or elementary OS (one of the elementary OS team members is in fact a System 76 employee) instead of creating their own?

“elementary OS and Linux Mint aren’t chasing the user that we are. They are great projects, but they are focused more on the mainstream computer user,” explained Sipes. “We’re not building an alternative to Windows and Mac or an operating system for mainstream users. We’re developing Pop!_OS for jobs where Linux excels which coincides with where the System76 customer base resides. That’s computer science fields of artificial intelligence, engineering, IOT, devops and other edge technologies.”

Finally someone is talking some sense. It’s about time we realize that desktop Linux is never going to compete with Windows and macOS in the consumer space that’s already shrinking. PC is becoming a niche for professionals and a substantial percentage of these professionals run Linux.

Companies like System 76 and Dell are making the right moves to address the needs of these users. Both of these companies offer a great Linux experience with high-end hardware and now we can see them optimizing the software stack as well.

If you are interested in testing out Pop!_US, the alpha release of Pop!_OS is available for download. The stable release of Pop!_OS will be available on 19 October 2017.

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