foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

Lenovo pre-installs GNU/Linux on Thinkpad notebooks

, posted: 15-Jan-2008 06:35

Another sign of GNU/Linux gaining ground in the desktop market: Lenovo will offer Linux pre-installed on its ThinkPad T61 and R61 notebooks. After Dell, this is now the second brand-name manufacturer of notebooks, which offers GNU/Linux pre-installed.

It's a bit startling to see that these notebooks will only cost $20 less than the same models with Windows Vista. OEM pricing truly is mysterious. Nevertheless, having it all pre-installed and working out of the box will help some buyers in the desktop market to confidently go with GNU/Linux.

While Dell chose Ubuntu as their desktop GNU/Linux distro, Lenovo instead went with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED). I think this is an indication of the different markets that they are targeted: SLED has a repuation for working well in a business environment, readily integrating with already installed Microsoft servers and products. Considering Novell's cooperation with Microsoft in this area, this shouldn't be a surprise. Since the ThinkPads have long had a good reputation as business notebooks, it is no surprise then that Lenovo selected a GNU/Linux distro with strong business credentials in that area. This is quite a good deal for Novell, I would think.

On the other hand, Ubuntu has not yet made that jump into corporate acceptability to the same degree as Novell, which is present in that market for a very long time already. Of course, Canonical - the company behind Ubuntu - also doesn't have the same sales force behind it. Dell freely admits that its Ubuntu desktop computers are aimed at the enthusiasts. Canonical has its work cut out for itself then, if it wants to be able to take advantage of pure business/enterprise opportunities as well. I know they are trying to, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

In the meantime, more desktop GNU/Linux offerings like this are definitely a good thing...


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Comment by, on 15-Jan-2008 07:37

While there's only a 20 dollar difference, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 includes a lot of applications including Open Office. Since that's almost a requirment for any business, add the cost of Microsoft Office onto a Vista machine.

What I would like to see is a laptop that has both Vista and Linux preinstalled on it which is what I've manually setup on my laptop.

Comment by Maximus, on 15-Jan-2008 10:59

I can´t really see how this will do any good for Linux. While we now have two Linux distros being offered pre-installed on machines produced by major manufacturers, one is free and the other is not. I think this will only confuse people who are probably already not sure what Linux is about.

Also, the cost savings that Novell advertise don´t seem to add up if there is only a $20 saving to be made by purchasing a laptop with SUSE pre installed. I think that $20 is simply not compelling enough for people to switch from Microsoft to an OS that they are unfamiliar with.

There is clearly more to it than just the cost of a desktop, however, on the face of it, I suspect, this offering may not give Corporates a particularly good reason to consider a switch from Microsoft.


Comment by barf, on 15-Jan-2008 11:38

I think you misunderstand Linux completely, it is not an underdog OS and runs on over 50% of the world's servers, and the proportion of datacenters and hosting facilities using Linux is even higher. Linux still has a long hard road to make it into the desktop. But it's good news either way and keep the articles coming! :-)

Author's note by foobar, on 15-Jan-2008 11:39

@smu_namblaz: You are right, of course. It's easy to overlook the price advantage of having all those applications pre-installed. But on the other hand, the most important business application for Linux - OpenOffice - is also available for free under Windows. So, you can't count that really as a price advantage. Sure, it's pre-installed and thus readily available, but in the end, it runs on Windows as well.

But of course there are many other applications that are included.

Still, though, you would think that Lenovo would have to pay more than just $20 more for Vista than for SLED...

Author's note by foobar, on 15-Jan-2008 11:43

@Maximus: I think that the Dell Linux offerings and this one here from Lenovo are targeted at sufficiently different audiences, so that the confusion is not too bad. I think the Lenovo one is much more aimed at enterprise/business users. That's where Novell has its sales force. If they can convince a few more business users to run Linux (SLED) then this will be a good thing, because otherwise those same users would have run Windows instead. Other Linux distros would not even have been in the running for many of those types of customers.

I think the deal is really good for Novell, though. It lends credibility to their SLED story.

The benefits for Linux will be of secondary nature: More users, more features and/or bug fixes, which will percolate through to the wider community via patches and programs published by Novell.

Author's note by foobar, on 15-Jan-2008 12:06

@barf: I am very much aware of the Linux success stories on the server. I was writing about the desktop usage, though. I opened up the article mentioning desktop use, but after re-reading it, I can see that in the last paragraph I could have clarified that once more. I have done that now, hopefully preventing any misunderstanding in the future.

Thanks for pointing that out.

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New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
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