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Saturday, 13 September 2008 16:28

Chinese Penguin Love: The Lenovo and Linux Story

Speaking from China, Tux the penguin says "the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" as the media continues to report that Lenovo is slaying the kernel mascot with the relish of a Canadians near a seal pup. iTWire digs a little deeper to reveal just WTF is really happening with Lenovo and Linux...

Best known for buying the IBM Personal Computing Division, and acquiring the ThinkPad brand as a result, Lenovo has historically supplied its business customers with a pre-installed Linux option on laptop and desktop systems through its channel sales mechanism.

From last year, consumers had been able to configure systems purchased online with a SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop option as well.

Reading some of the media reports with headlines such as 'Lenovo dumps Linux' and 'Lenovo ditches desktop Linux' you might be forgiven that the vendor, the fourth biggest in the world and number one in China, has given up on Linux completely.

That, of course, is what the headline writers want you to think. But is it actually the case? Well, no, not really.

But then 'Lenovo stops offering the option to configure consumer desktop and laptop computers online for the consumer market but continues selling them into the business channel' doesn't have quite the same pull.

After eight years of offering consumers the Linux option via the web sales site, Lenovo looked at the numbers and decided enough wasn't enough. If you see what I mean.

The sales sheets showed that, bottom line, the vast majority of purchasers of systems pre-configured with Linux were being sold through either the Lenovo Sales Team or a Lenovo Business Partner.

If the website sales to consumers were low enough, and Lenovo is not actually releasing figures here as that would be treated as commercially sensitive material, then it makes some sense to rationalise the business processes.

Interestingly, Lenovo is quick to point out that both RedHat and SuSE will continue to be certified for use on ThinkPads. Not so great for the consumer though, as they will have to cough up for an unwanted Windows license before wiping it away and installing a Linux OS.

So why not leave the Linux option alone? What does Lenovo have to say about the decision? Is Microsoft to blame? More on page 2...


So why not just leave the Linux option be, even if only a handful of consumers are consuming? Good question and the best answer I have found would be to simplify stock control issues on the web sales side of things.

By cutting through the complexity of the stock control systems, and streamlining the consumer offerings, Lenovo can concentrate on using the online sales channel as a showcase for its most popular products.

Indeed, Lenovo spokesman Ray Gorman says that "We want the focus on Lenovo.com to be those products that customers are most interested in."

Gorman insists that "our commitment to Linux has not changed" and to be fair, there is no reason to doubt that. All that has changed is the focus of that commitment, away from the consumer and onto the business market.

Not everyone believes the official Lenovo version of events. An Inquirer reporter writes "Anyone watching the way the big outfits are squeezing open source offerings from their products could be forgiven for thinking something's afoot."

However, suggesting that Microsoft is behind the move is probably a headline grabbing move too far...

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