Lenovo believes in the Linux desktop

Lenovo is returning to its role as a leading Linux desktop supporter. It will certify and preload its entire Thinkpad/station lineup for Linux.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

In the 2000s, if you wanted Linux on a laptop, your best choice without a doubt was an IBM. Later, Lenovo ThinkPad. Then, in 2008, Lenovo decided to no longer officially support Linux on the desktop. There's been a lot of technological changes since, including that Lenovo went back to fully supporting the Linux desktop. There were some hitches, too. Lenovo blew it with Linux on its 2016 Signature Edition PCs. But now Lenovo wants to be desktop Linux's best friend again.

Lenovo is moving to certify the full workstation portfolio for top Linux distributions from Ubuntu and Red Hat -- "every model, every configuration." While that's not every Lenovo PC -- the Ideapad family isn't included -- that's still an impressive move.

Lenovo isn't just certifying its high-end laptops and desktops for Linux; the company will also preload its entire portfolio of ThinkStation and ThinkPad P Series workstations with both Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS).

Why is Lenovo making such a bold move? Herman said: 

"More than 250 million computers are sold each year and NetMarketShare reports that 2.87% -- roughly 7.2 million users -- are using those computers to run Linux. Once thought of as a niche IT crowd, this user base of data scientists, developers, application engineers, scientists, and more is growing -- stepping into sought-after roles across multiple industries and becoming essential within their companies."

I think NetMarketShare's Linux numbers are higher than they should be, but Herman is certainly right about one thing: Linux has become the desktop operating system of choice for advanced developers. 

As Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu's parent company Canonical, said: "We have seen companies signing up for Linux desktop support because they want to have fleets of Ubuntu desktop for their artificial intelligence engineers."

Even Microsoft with Windows SubSystem to Linux (WSL) 2 is supporting the Linux desktop for software engineers and system administrators. In short, Linux for professional developers, engineers, and sysadmins is growing.

Herman continued: 

"To ensure an effortless Linux experience, Lenovo workstations will ... offer full end-to-end support -- from security patches and updates to better secure and verify hardware drivers, firmware and bios optimizations. What's more, Lenovo will also upstream device drivers directly to the Linux kernel, to help maintain stability and compatibility throughout the life of the workstation."

Besides RHEL and Ubuntu, Lenovo has also partnered with Fedora to offer a pilot program with a preloaded Fedora image on its ThinkPad P53 and P1 Gen 2 systems.

But what if your IT staff isn't up to dealing with Linux desktops? No problem, replied Herman:

Lenovo's Linux preloads reduce end-user complexity, giving IT managers more visibility and autonomy over devices in their network, in addition to integrated support from Lenovo, Red Hat, and Ubuntu. This finite foundation gives IT departments an easier route of deployment and insights about which version their employees are using and how to best support their devices, helping to simplify management across the organization.

Lenovo's certified portfolio of workstations will be available fully customizable and configured-to-order starting in June. They will be rolled out over the summer starting with the ThinkPad P Series mobile workstations. Going beyond the box, Lenovo will also offer full web support, dedicated Linux forums, and configuration guidance.

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