Despite reports to the contrary, Lenovo says it will continue to offer Linux on its ThinkPads.
A company executives recent statement that Lenovo Group would no longer support Linux on its ThinkPad line sparked disapproval among aficionados of the operating system.
However, the PC maker, whose ThinkPad notebooks are said to be popular among Linux enthusiasts, said June 5 that it would not only continue to support Linux, but that it has been preparing to announce additional support for the operating system.
Discussing the new Lenovo 3000 V100 notebook, a Lenovo executive in late May said the company would not support Linux on Lenovo 3000 machines and would discontinue doing so on ThinkPads, according to Computer Reseller News. However, a Lenovo representative said the executive misspoke.
"Lenovos Linux strategy has not changed compared to what the IBM Linux-related strategy, related to the PC environment, was," said Marc Godin, vice president of marketing for notebooks at Lenovo, in Raleigh, N.C.
Moreover, he said, "Were about to reinforce that strategy and go beyond what IBM [Personal Computer Division] or Lenovo, until now, was doing in terms of its commitments to the Linux community and to our business partners who want to use Linux."
Lenovo will do so by beefing up its Linux technical support. It will begin offering direct assistance to customers who run particular versions of Linux on ThinkPads and ThinkCentre desktops, for example. That assistance might include offering Web support for given Linux distributions running on those machines. Lenovo has been working with Novel on its latest version of SUSE Linux, Godin said.
However, Lenovo will stop short of preloading the operating systems on its Think-brand computers for all but its largest customers.
"We dont provide preloaded licenses on systems today," Godin said.
IBM did do so in 2000 or so, but it found that it wasnt able to meet all of its customers requirements by delivering just one implementation of Linux, he said.
"It is a very tough job to provide, up front, one standardized Linux implementation," because there are numerous Linux distributions and customers tend to pick one and then customize it in some way, such as adding a particular user interface, Godin said.
Click here to read about Lenovos new dual-core laptops.
To address this problem, Lenovo offers Linux to large customers via its a custom software image service, by which it creates and installs a special software package on machines at the factory. The custom software image program includes a choice of Linux distributionits up to the customer to present a software licenseadapted to the customers specifications and its applications. The creation of a custom image, developed and tested in a Lenovo lab, comes at an extra charge, however.
The company is also seeking third-party Linux certification for its Godin said. It will not offer its custom software load service for the PC line, but enterprising resellers who offer the 3000 line could offer their own Linux packages on the machines.
Thus, for individual ThinkPad users, the quickest path to Linux appears to still be installing the operating system themselves. But Lenovo wont rule out offering Linux preloaded on standard-issue Think machines at some point in the future.
"Well be looking at the way that the Linux market is developing," Godin said.
"Its not that we dont want to do it," he said. However, "I dont think wed be able to meet the various requirements in the Linux environment by deciding were going to work selectively with one or two distributions."
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John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET News.com, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.