lots of different requirements require a flexible solution
I've read a lot of ideas and the laptop hardware requirements for developers are quite varied. Some of the things I've read that developers agree on are:
1. matte screen
2. very good track pad
3. bare install (developers add the tools they need) and definitely no crapware
4. Gb Ethernet port
5. high resolution screen (although the minimums here are debatable)
6. expandable RAM with a very minimum of 4G
7. SSD for fast work
8. very good keyboard for long days
9. at least 4 cores
10. all hardware has good working drivers available
11. camera tor video conferencing
Now we come to the things I did not see consensus on:
A. Some people want thin, light and portable, others just want performance
B. people wanted different screen sizes and aspect ratios
C. Most don't care about cd/dvd and they take a lot of potential battery or drive space.
D. Many don't need to pay for software support, although I think some sort of bootable hardware test suite would be good, but software support should be an option
E. most people do not care about graphics performance (built into cpu chip is usually “good enough” )
F. some people need to run both Linux and Windows concurrently for testing with IE
G. Nobody said anything about partitioning, but I think anyone that needs special partition layout will need to reinstall. This means it might be good if Dell provided a certified (has all the drivers) install USB stick that users could use to reinstall with repartitioning, or use as a rescue disk.
H. I also didn't see anyone mention RAID, but if the device contains source code for long times between backups, raid should be an option.
I. I think USB 3 should be standard on everything going ahead, but this may be overkill.
Dell has a great selection of laptop products from ultrabooks to alienware, so I am sure some hardware combination is already available for every potential development scenario. The solution is to offer an optional installed Linux on any of their configured options. In other words, choose the hardware, then during configuration, choose Windows or Linux (or maybe both using either dual boot or virtualization which might cost extra). There are some arguments about the feasibility of supporting this myriad of possibilities, but I think most of the hardware already works and so most simple options (e.g. memory, or disk choices) should be easy. Perhaps there are some peripherals that should be excluded from Linux configurations.
So, I say, start working through the hardware possibilities and as each is certified by Dell, make the OS selectable in the dell.com configuration screens on the web. Be sure to get a varied selection, not just all one class of hardware (i.e. not just ultrabooks). Nowhere did I see that developers need next day delivery, so if a Linux install requires a day or two longer for an unusual configuration, it's probably reasonable. Software support should be an option for those that want it.
This is an opportunity for Dell to break away from the rest of OEMs and capture a very important part of the market. Remember, developers have great influence on hardware/software choices for the production environments. Certified Dell Linux production machines will be very compatible with these development environments.