Lenovo, Novell, VAR Team In Linux Laptop Deal

The San Diego Unified School District has tapped education solution provider Arey Jones and PC maker Lenovo to provide Linux-powered notebooks for students, standardizing on Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 operating system in the first phase of a districtwide deployment, according to officials there.

The contract would mark a bigwin for Lenovo and Novell in the Linux space, a segment that has become increasingly competitive among tier-one PC makers. Earlier this month, Dell said it would begin offering notebooks preloaded with Ubuntu Linux. And Hewlett-Packard executives said earlier this year that company has begun deploying thousands of PCs loaded with Linux as custom orders.

"We went with SLED 10 because we wanted a Linux distribution that we could scale and sustain with support as an enterprise solution to potentially tens of thousands of K-12 students," said Dan Wolfson, program manager of educational technology in the CurriculumInstruction unit of the San Diego Unified School District. "Presently, we have a district contract with Lenovo, and the system integrator is Arey Jones. Both Lenovo and Arey Jones are participating in our phase-one pilot project with the Linux laptops."

The San Diego district maintains an "Always-On Learning Initiative," designed to provide mobile PCs and software to students to help them learn and prepare for the future. The district has 130,000 students and is California's second-largest public school district.

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Executives from Lenovo and San Diego-based Arey Jones couldn't be reached for comment.

Last year, Lenovo began providing support for SLED 10 on some models of ThinkPads. The Raleigh, N.C.-based PC maker also enabled customers to order a notebook from Lenovo, buy a SLED 10 license from Novell and request that the OS be installed on the notebook prior to delivery.

Lenovo, however, has also reiterated a deep partnership with Microsoft at least twice over the past two years and continues to recommend Microsoft software for its PCs.

The K-12 public education segment has been fertile ground for Linux evangelists. Last year, Indiana education officials said they would deploy Linux PCs for up to 22,000 public school students under an initiative in the Hoosier state.