Practical Technology

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Lenovo Exits pre-Installed Linux Desktop Business


Desktop Linux reported that Lenovo seems to have quietly exited the desktop Linux business. Unfortunately for desktop Linux users, that news has turned out to be correct. Lenovo, in a note to Practical Technology, confirmed that it was exiting the pre-installed desktop Linux business.

In an e-mail from Lenovo, Ray Gorman, executive director of Lenovo external communications, tried to put the best spin he could on the decision. “Our commitment to Linux has not changed. What’s changed is that customers will no longer be able to order Lenovo ThinkPads and ThinkCentres with pre-installed Linux via the website. We are still certifying Linux pre-loads, but most of those customers typically order either through their Lenovo Sales team or Lenovo Business Partner.”

In other words, as before and has long been the case with companies like HP, corporate and government customers can order desktop Linux, but individual users will not be able to order it.

This is a major disappointment to desktop Linux users. ThinkPads have long been popular with Linux users. Indeed, there’s long been an excellent site just for ThinkPad Linux users.

Lenovo started hinting that it would ship a ThinkPad with desktop Linux in 2005. In November 2006, the company finally put a toe in the desktop Linux market with the shipping of the ThinkPad T60p mobile workstation with Novell’s SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop).

The Chinese company then began publicly considering bringing out a business laptop with Linux. In August 2007, Lenovo finally indicated that it would ship a business-level ThinkPad with SLED. In the event, it wasn’t until January of 2008 that Lenovo actually shipped Linux-powered ThinkPads: the ThinkPad T61 and R61.

These ThinkPads were well-reviewed and widely-praised by both the media and desktop Linux fans. Despite this, with less than year in the mass-market, Lenovo has decided to pull pre-installed Linux ThinkPads from its virtual store shelves.

Gorman did add that, “We will be delivering new Linux offerings on our new Lenovo servers, and IdeaPad netbook education models, scheduled for release in September and October respectively.” The IdeaPad S9, the model with Linux,, however, will not be available at all to the U.S. market.

Lenovo did not offer any explanation for these moves.


  1. We may never know, but this seems to be either a case of M$ defending its home planet by making Lenovo a deal it could not refuse or the leadership of Lenovo is losing it. In these days of intense competition in hardware, why would Lenovo give up any sliver of a market? While business is not making a wholesale move to GNU/Linux yet, education frequently views GNU/Linux as a useful tool for those school systems not locked-in securely. The netbooks are ideal for schools. They can use them or put them away like books.

    I would bet M$ offered Lenovo a “discount” greater than near-term profit from selling GNU/Linux. They can easily do that as long as M$ is near 90% share. Just as any customer can use the threat of going to FLOSS as leverage in negotiations, so can an OEM like Lenovo.

    The different regional treatment I put down to M$ having fallen seriously below 90% already. The USA is the fortress of M$. It is the most M$-friendly country on the planet and M$ has business pretty well sewn up, at least this year. In a year or two that last wall will crumble. There were clear signs in the survey by KACE.

    We should not be too hard on Lenovo. Even those selling GNU/Linux in the USA pre-installed bend over backwards to be sure that there is very little competition in price. Why else do Lenovo’s competitors avoid at all cost selling the same hardware with a simple choice of OS? Why else do Lenovo’s competitors sell GNU/Linux with a licence fee of $0 for the same or higher price than M$’s wares? It is scandalous, if not illegal, but is just a short-term phenomenon.

    Sooner, rather than later, everyone will be offered a discount by M$ and they will be competing on price. If threatening to pre-install GNU/Linux gives the OEMs leverage with M$, how much more leverage would they get by threatening to sell installation media only for M$’s products? If the discount to OEMs becomes large enough, they will make more money selling installation media and M$’s market share would take a huge hit. Would it be illegal for OEMs to agree amongst themselves to do that? No. They would be trying to promote competition, not kill it.

  2. This isn’t a problem for the Linux community except that portion of it that wants to buy ThinkPads.

    This is Lenovo’s problem. They’ve chosen short-term gain in exchange for a chance to stand side-by-side with M$ in the path of a made-in-Redmond oncoming glacier they call Vista, the operating system nobody wants.

    Lenovo in the long run needs practice in supporting Linux end users, not just the IT shops with *nix experience in the business and government markets they continue to sell Linux to. But long-run thinking is out of fashion at major multinationals.

  3. This is because a little MS twist arm strategy. But the big problem could be wrong strategy from Lenovo. Suse is not the best distro that fit users need, I know Lenovo is business oriented company, I mean, Lenovo prefer to sell computers to business that to general public, but the lions share are those million people that buy a computer for they children, wife, sister, brother, mother, etc. Lenovo: ask Dell about its Linux strategy, time to time Dell includes another Linux SKU.

  4. They are still sell SLED preloads on their UK site, in fact, they have very recently put one in their topseller range. These interpretations are annoying me. They ARE STILL SELLING LINUX. Just not directly through their site, big deal. 4 different models i have to choose from. People glancing over these articles will get the impression Lenovo no longer stocks SLED preloads at all, it isn’t true, but will make people less likely to buy from Lenvo as they have negative impression – Linux community should stop with the knee jerk vitriol it only damages us

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