By Jim Finkle Mon Aug 6, 9:57 AM ET
BOSTON (Reuters) - Lenovo Group Ltd. (0992.HK), the world's No. 3 PC maker, said on Monday it would start selling laptop computers preloaded with Linux software from Novell Inc. (NOVL.O) instead of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT.O) Windows operating system.
The laptops are slated to go on sale in the fourth quarter of this year and will be sold to Lenovo's business customers as well as to consumers.
Lenovo announced its plans at the start of LinuxWorld, an annual conference for information-technology managers being held in San Francisco this week.
The Linux operating system has been one of the fastest-growing types of software on servers and other types of powerful business computers over the past decade.
Last year, Microsoft entered into a business partnership with Novell that includes joint product development on server software. Microsoft also sells Novell products and both companies agreed to provide patent protections for each other's customers.
PC makers have been reluctant to embrace Linux, but that view is starting to change.
In May, No. 2 PC maker Dell Inc. (DELL.O) began selling three models to U.S. consumers that come preloaded with another version of Linux, from a nonprofit group known as Ubuntu.
It introduced them after Chief Executive Michael Dell asked customers to post suggestions for new products on the company's Web site. Linux PCs were overwhelming the most-requested item.
Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth, who runs privately held Canonical Inc. which sells service contracts to maintain Ubuntu software, said in an interview last month that he expects Dell to expand its Linux PC program.
He also said that he is in negotiations with other large PC makers that want to introduce models preloaded with Ubuntu.