IBM, delving further into the Linux realm, this week announced that for the first time it will sell some of its popular ThinkPad laptop computers preloaded with the open-source operating system. "Customers are demanding Linux, and rather than making them wipe off the [standard Windows 98 or 2000] operating system, we're just selling models preloaded with Linux," said spokesman Scott Handy. The A20m and T20 model ThinkPads will feature Caldera Systems’ OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4. The machines will be available beginning in the third quarter, according to Handy. They are expected to be priced similarly to Windows-equipped models. IBM's worldwide products marketing manager, Tom Follette, said that the company's commitment is justified by customer demand, though he wouldn't give projections as to how many Linux-loaded machines IBM expects to sell. "We expect this to be something that enough customers will request so that it makes business sense," Follette said. IBM is evaluating whether to offer other Linux versions, including Red Hat, TurboLinux and SuSE, on some ThinkPads, he said. Dan Kusnetzsky, a systems software analyst at IDC, said the moves show that IBM is committed to providing the Linux platform to customers who request it. IBM appears "to have done more to embrace Linux at every level" than its major competitors, Kusnetzsky said. "They've gone quite a ways to bring Linux in as one of their available operating systems." Analyst Bill Claybrook at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, said IBM's desire to sell more hardware is behind its Linux push. But what sets IBM apart from other companies, according to Claybrook, is that it has been able to change to keep up and even lead in the Linux marketplace.