Lenovo preloads ThinkPads with Novell Linux

Lenovo and Novell have teamed up to offer preloaded Linux on Lenovo ThinkPad notebooks as an alternative to the Microsoft Windows operating system, and they’re relying on the channel to help spread awareness.

The companies have collaborated on research and development in the past, and have expanded their relationship to make Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 on Lenovo notebooks, including the ThinkPad T series.

Lenovo will provide direct support for the hardware and software of the Linux-based ThinkPad notebooks, while Novell will provide OS maintenance updates and higher level hardware support.

Both companies are expecting the channel to play an integral part in carrying the message to market that Linux is a viable alternative to Windows that operates at a fraction of the cost.

Justin Steinman, director of product marketing for Linux and open platform solutions at Novell, said offering Linux pre-loaded, rather than just certifying machines as Linux-ready, is a better way to go.

“People don’t want to buy an empty machine,” Steinman said. “They want to be able to take it out of the box, push the button and have the OS there. We believe Linux beats Windows with security because it also manages hardware resources better than Windows.”

Steinman said Novell is expecting a large majority of the sales of the Linux-based notebooks to come through Lenovo’s channel and sales partners.

“We’ll (be) working with Lenovo’s channel partners and sales force to train them. We’ll also send (our) engineers to Lenovo sites as well and have an online knowledge base.”

Steinman added these notebooks offer a lot of market opportunity for partners looking to expand their reach.

“This is an amazing opportunity for channel partners,” Steinman said. “Every channel partner can show this to their customers with migration opportunities to migrate from Windows to Linux.”

Michelle Warren, a senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, added with a small Canadian install base for Linux there is lots of room for growth.

“Now (Lenovo and Novell) can take this small presence and multiply it out,” said Warren. “From where they are at now, the only way to go is up.”

Lenovo’s preloaded Linux notebooks will be made available starting this year’s fourth quarter, and to help ready partners for the launch both companies are in the midst of creating a broad- based training campaign to coincide with release.

On Lenovo’s side, Stefan Bockhop, director of channel sales at Lenovo Canada, said his company will do a variety of things to communicate with the channel.

“We will have periodic activities across the country and with partners and customers,” Bockhop said. “Over the next six months, we’ll be focusing on our Best Engineer Campaign to help leverage our message to customers.”

Bockhop said he’s hearing demand from Lenovo customers to preload Linux, and Info-Tech’s Warren added Linux is an increasingly attractive alternative.

“It offers users a different way of computing,” Warren said. “And it’s compatible with other programs and it’s extremely user-friendly. There’s a definite growth phase in the market but I’d say it’s still a niche market item.”

Novell said it is thrilled to have Lenovo’s support behind Linux because it serves as a validation point for customers. Lenovo’s Bockhop agreed, saying customers feel better about choosing an alternate operating system if they know there’s support behind it.

“Our partners can now go forward with confidence to offer customers the best Linux experience they can as an alternative solution,” Bockhop said.

Looking ahead, Bockhop mentions Lenovo’s partner community can expect to see continuous innovations with their portfolio of offerings. As well, Steinman said Novell partners can also continue to expect much of the same things.

“We’ll continue to grow our Linux environment,” he said. “Partners can continue to expect to see major industry leaders align with Novell to create integrated solutions that they can take to their customers.”

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