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Linux? Not on our hardware, say Microsoft and Lenovo

Both Microsoft and Lenovo appear to be wary of having operating systems other than Windows run on their own hardware: in the former case, the Surface Book and in Lenovo's case, its Yoga line of laptops.

Inquiries to Microsoft about testing Linux on the Surface Book brought forth this response from Microsoft's Natasha Brack: "Thanks for your interest in Surface Book. As Surface Book and all Surface products are designed, tested and optimised for Windows 10, our review units come with Windows 10 installed, therefore this is not a request we can fulfil."

The request in question was for a Surface Book on which I would install Linux and test it. Nobody asked Microsoft to install the free operating system which it claims to love.

The response is funny; anyone who buys a device running Windows, wipes the operating system and installs something else pays what is called the Microsoft Tax anyway. This is the amount that Microsoft charges OEMs who choose to install Windows on the hardware they sell.

So why prevent someone from showing others how to run Linux on a Surface Book? My guess is that Microsoft is scared that this may lead to hacks that make Linux a much better alternative to Windows on its own hardware.

With Lenovo, the response was equally paranoid.

The situation was somewhat different: there had been reports that Linux could not be installed on certain Lenovo Yoga models. This was not strictly true, but Lenovo issued patches that made it possible for Linux to be installed with ease.

Desiring to test this, I asked Lenovo for a sample notebook. Lenovo senior account manager Amy Brinker who wrote back to me seemed unaware of what her own employer had done to make it possible to run Linux on the hardware in question.

Said she: "To support its Yoga products and our industry-leading 360-hinge design in the best way possible we have used a storage controller mode that is unfortunately not supported by Linux and as a result, does not allow Linux to be installed."

But her own colleague had issued firmware fixes to allow Linux to be installed. Ignorance, they say, can be bliss.

We are slowly coming to an era when operating systems are losing their importance yet these individuals representing a company that runs 92% of the world's desktop systems and another that is the top-selling PC vendor display what can only be described as outdated attitudes.

But then, that perhaps is why both Microsoft and Lenovo are losing their importance in the tech world and, while staying big, are slowly becoming irrelevant.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.