Lenovo Group is to ship Thinkpad laptops preloaded with Linux. Lenovo will use Novell Linux in the Thinkpad laptops, due for release in the fourth quarter of this year, Novell and Lenovo announced yesterday.

Lenovo will sell Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10.0 to both commercial and individual customers. It will also provide direct support for the operating system, the first time that it has done so, it said, with Novell offering maintenance updates for the system directly to the Thinkpad users.

Previously, Lenovo had certified Thinkpads for use with Linux, but had not made the OS available directly to its customers.

The world's number three PC maker, Lenovo may be attempting to answer moves by its next largest rival, Dell, which began loading Linux from Ubuntu. It did not announce pricing or a specific shipping date.

The announcement came on the first day of the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, which runs until Thursday.