Laptops these days are getting more powerful, thinner, and, like the Lenovo Yoga Book, more interesting. While most of these were made with running Windows in mind, some consumers prefer to have the final say on what OS to use, which usually means Linux (or Chrome OS sometimes). But much to their dismay, some buyers of the Lenovo Yoga 900, 910S, and 710S have found out that they can’t do so, supposedly because of an agreement between Microsoft and OEMs like Lenovo to prevent other operating systems like Linux to be installed on Signature Edition PCs like those models. However, reality isn’t as simple as that may sound.
Signature Edition PCs are hardware that run Windows 10 in its purest form, without the usual bloatware that manufacturers install on them. Think of them like the Nexus or, perhaps closer, the now defunct Google Play Edition devices in the Windows 10 world. Unlike Nexus devices, however, Lenovo’s Signature Edition Yoga laptops turned out to be rather unfriendly to other operating systems, particularly Linux.
The technical gist of the problem is that owners trying to install Linux on the laptops are unable to do so because the computers’ SSDs were locked in a RAID format that the Linux kernel doesn’t understand, which means it can’t see those drives. In a reply to a support thread in Lenovo’s support forums, a “product expet” said that such was part of the agreement Lenovo had with Microsoft over Signature Edition PCs. The thread was deleted, then restored, then locked since then.
It’s no surprise that the Linux community was immediately up in arms, calling out Microsoft over such a deal. Microsoft and Linux, and the open source community in general, have had a very rocky relationship. it was only recently that Microsoft started trying to become buddies with Linux, thought it still hasn’t dropped several Linux-related patent lawsuits it has ongoing.
Lenovo, however, later clarified the situation, claiming that it does not intentionally block customers from installing any other operating system. The use of the proprietary, Linux-unfriendly RAID format is simply to improve system performance, the PC maker says. It is up to Linux vendors and developers, however, to provide drivers that can access RAID on SSD storage. In short, Lenovo is placing the onus of compatibility back to the Linux community.
The situation with Linux drivers for proprietary hardware hasn’t exactly been perfect to begin with, though things have definitely gotten better as more component manufacturers become more invested in open source software and Linux. But while Linux users may have been quick to point the finger at Microsoft because of past hurts, Lenovo’s reply doesn’t exactly tell the Linux community if it has plans on helping kernel and driver developers in resolving the situation either.