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6/2/2006
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Lenovo Executive: Company Says 'No Deal' To Linux

A product marketing exec says the company will no longer install or support Linux on its hardware, including the ThinkPad laptop and other products acquired when it purchased IBM's PC division. (NOTE: an important update to this story is available, in which Lenovo denies reports that it is ending its Linux installation and support options.)

Computer maker Lenovo will not install or support the Linux operating system on any of its PCs, including ThinkPads and a series of new notebooks, the company said this week.

The Raleigh, N.C.-based company is clearly positioning itself as an exclusive partner of Microsoft, several weeks after the companies announced they were "reaffirming" global market development and cooperation agreements.

"We will not have models available for Linux, and we do not have custom order, either," said Frank Kardonski, Lenovo's worldwide product manager for Lenovo 3000 offerings. "What you see is what you get. And at this point, it's Windows."

A Lenovo spokesman later said the non-Linux strategy is also applicable to the company's ThinkPad brand of notebooks, although Lenovo will provide advice to customers who are intent on deploying desktop Linux systems in some fashion.

While Lenovo and Microsoft have had a long OEM relationship that pre-dates Lenovo's takeover last year of the former IBM PC Co., IBM had been supportive of Linux throughout its product line — including preloading it on ThinkPads — before the sale to Lenovo.

Some solution providers said Lenovo's position would likely have little impact on business in the near future, but down the road that could change.

"In the short term, no impact," said Norman Gaffney, co-founder of Garic, a New York-based solution provider and Lenovo partner. "In the long term, yes."

That, Gaffney said, could change should Microsoft further delay its in-development Vista operating system. As it stands now, he said, the market may be ready to wait.

"Customers are always asking for something that's still a few years down the road, to have available today," Gaffney said. "Will Lenovo lose some sales? Possibly."

Among Lenovo's two biggest rivals, Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, Calif., began offering Linux-based notebooks as early as 2004, and Dell offers Linux configurations on some of its PC clients. And system builders have been warming up to the idea of offering Linux on desktops and notebooks; at CMP Technology's XChange Tech Connect conference last week in Summerlin, Nev., several said they were open to providing systems with Novell's forthcoming SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 for the desktop.

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