At today's LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, Lenovo is set to announce full support for Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop Version 10 (SLED 10) on two specific ThinkPad T60p mobile workstations. This is the first time Lenovo will release drivers to guarantee all the ThinkPad hardware works with a particular flavor of Linux. (Previously the company has "certified" three distributions of Linux to ensure basic functionality on ThinkPads, but a few features--such as the wireless card or the ability to hibernate--weren't always functional.) Better yet, users of the Linux-friendly T60p models will be able to call Lenovo tech support for help with hardware or driver issues--something that even users of "certified" Linux distributions haven't been able to do.
Though the move is a tiny step forward for Linux, it's not quite a triumph. While early reports implied that the Lenovo system would come preloaded with Linux, in actuality customers will receive just a blank hard disk from Lenovo. They'll have to obtain the SUSE Linux license and OS from Novell (and install it), then return to Lenovo's site to download the Linux drivers (and install them). Also, Lenovo's Linux support is available only for the two designated T60p workstation models--heavy-duty graphics machines designed for engineers and designers, not for average consumers.
In our briefing last week, a spokesman for Lenovo wouldn't reveal how far the company might go with Linux on ThinkPads, saying only that Lenovo is testing the waters with this release, which came in response to demand from customers in the engineering field.
Would you like to see more support for Linux from hardware manufacturers? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.