Lenovo denies ditching Linux

Update: The PC maker, which recently signed a $1.2bn Microsoft deal, says it has no plans to stop supporting the open-source OS
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Chinese computer supplier Lenovo has denied a report that it is planning to stop offering Linux on its range of PCs and laptops.

On Friday, CRN reported that Frank Kardonski, Lenovo's worldwide product manager for its 3000 series, had indicated that Linux support was being dropped.

"We will not have models available for Linux, and we do not have custom order, either," he told the reseller newspaper. "What you see is what you get. And at this point, it's (Microsoft) Windows."

But Lenovo made strenuous efforts on Monday to set the record straight, emphasizing that Kardonski provided incorrect information to CRN and that the company plans to continue to offer Linux on ThinkPads.

"There has really been no change in the support and commitment to the Linux community and to our customers and business partners," Marc Godin, vice president of marketing for Lenovo's notebooks, said.

Lenovo runs two ranges of laptops, the "family" 3000 series and the "ultimate business machine" ThinkPads. According to the CRN report, Kardonski made it clear that the "non-Linux strategy" applied equally to both ThinkPads and 3000 laptops.

This came just weeks after Lenovo announced that it had signed a one-year deal with Microsoft to buy $1.2bn (£640m) worth of that company's software.

Kardonski apparently confused Lenovo's stance on providing licences for Linux, as opposed to providing preloaded versions of the software for customers, Godin said. Because different companies use different configurations of Linux on their ThinkPad notebooks, Lenovo doesn't provide licences for the software, he said. Customers are responsible for acquiring the licence on their own, but Lenovo will preinstall the desired configuration on new ThinkPads once the licence has been obtained.

Lenovo actually plans to support Linux on its ThinkPads starting in the third quarter, in partnership with Novell, Godin said. Customers of the recently introduced Lenovo 3000 units still won't have a preloaded option, however, because the small and medium-sized business customers that are the targets for those units have many different requirements, he said.

Chinese customers of Lenovo will still be able to buy PCs with Red Flag, the Linux distribution backed by the Chinese government, said Grant Shenk, who works in Lenovo's worldwide software marketing group.

Last year, Lenovo purchased IBM's PC division. IBM is a major investor in Linux and open source, and only last month announced it is building a $2.2m Linux development centre in Brazil.

Linux vendor Red Hat, a key IBM ally, was thrown into some confusion by CRN's report.

"Everybody here is using Lenovo or IBM ThinkPads," a senior Red Hat executive told ZDNet UK. "I don't think what Lenovo (is reported to be doing) would impact our business. Anyway, if it's true, it won't impact us for much longer."

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