Lenovo blows the Linux desktop off

I'm ticked off. Lenovo, after years of dancing around the question of would they or wouldn't they, offer a ThinkPad with pre-installed Linux finally offered one, and, less than a year later, Lenovo has decided to take its Linux-powered ThinkPads off the retail market.

What the heck is this?

I like ThinkPads. I like them a lot. They are other good laptops, and I wouldn't turn down a MacBook Air, but when it comes right down to it, I'll pay the extra money to get a ThinkPad. They're little tanks in laptop-form.

There was only one thing they lacked from where I sat: pre-installed Linux. Then, finally, in January of this year, Lenovo finally made good their promises of desktop Linux support and shipped the ThinkPad T61 and R61 notebooks with Novell SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop).

Not long after that, I bought a ThinkPad R61 and I love it. While I know I'll find a use for my soon-to-arrive Dell Inspiron Mini 9, it will be my ThinkPad, now running openSUSE 11, that I'll be using for trade shows and press conferences.

I wasn't the only one. When I go to Linux shows, the most common laptop is a ThinkPad. Linux users have long had a love affair with ThinkPads. Indeed, one of the best Linux Web sites for a particular kind of computer is the popular ThinkWiki for, you guessed it, ThinkPads.

Last, but in business never the least, I know Lenovo was selling its SLED-powered ThinkPads. Now, if you're a business or a government agency you can still get a few dozen to a few thousand SLED-equipped ThinkPad or IdeaPad, but if you're looking to buy one or two laptops, well, you're out of luck. I suggest you visit Dell and look at their Ubuntu-powered models.

So why did Lenovo do it? I don't know. I talked briefly with Lenovo executives yesterday and they didn't give me a reason for their decision. The one thing I do know about the decision is that it came from a very high-level. This wasn't made by some U.S.-based executive. It came from high-off in the home office.

I suspect the decision was made by the same home-office executives who decided to partner with Microsoft for the Beijing Olympics that resulted in the biggest Windows Blue Screen of Death in history. After all, as Microsoft has proved time and again, if you can manipulate the vendors, it doesn't matter if your actual products are second-rate.

So, for the foreseeable future the first-rate ThinkPads are only going to be available, in the U.S. at least, with, not even a second-rate operating system, but that third-rate piece of operating system offal we call Vista.

Lenovo, how could you do this to us?

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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