When IBM sold its personal computer division to Chinese PC maker Lenovo, one of the flagship products that went along on that sale was its invaluable ThinkPad notebook line, home of some of the best engineering I've seen in notebook PCs in the entire time they've been on the market. Now Lenovo is preparing to take the ThinkPad a step ahead and ship them with SUSE Linux preinstalled.
Starting Jan. 14, the T61 and R16 Centrino ThinkPads will have the option of shipping with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, with OpenOffice.org included. A news item over at DesktopLinux.com revealed that the T61 will sport a Core 2 Duo T7205 2.0-GHz processor, 1 Gbyte of DDR2 RAM, an 80-Gbyte 5400 RPM hard drive -- all for $949. The R61, incidentally, is pretty much the same as the T61 except it's designed to run with less noise and use less power, and will appear at about the same price. Support is split between Novell (for SUSE updates) and Lenovo (for hardware and direct systems support such as drivers).
However, the same notebook with Vista Home Premium ships for $969. That's right -- $20 more.
I have the distinct feeling this fact -- that the cost savings over the Windows edition of the machine amounts to a lousy $20 -- is going to make some people point and laugh. But there's more to Linux than the lower price tag, and that's something which should be getting more full-court press by now. People don't just switch to Linux to save money; they do so to liberate themselves from the proprietary nature of Windows.
Another reason why this is a fairly major deal is that Lenovo sells mainly to business and corporate customers -- hence the choice of SUSE, which is a fairly business-centric distribution. Ordinary users can buy these machines, but Lenovo's big target here is companies trying to migrate away from Windows.
What with Lenovo, the gOS PC, Everex, and Shuttle offering Linux boxes, this may not be the "year of Linux on the desktop" (as hoary a term as ever was coined), but it's certainly turning into the year of mainstream preloaded Linux. Not too shabby.