ThinkPad Maker Lenovo to Preload Skype Onto Its Computers

We have learned that Skype, the Internet telephony division of eBay (s EBAY) that is in the process of being spun out and sold to a group of private equity investors, is close to signing a massive distribution deal with Lenovo, the Chinese company that makes PCs and laptops under the ThinkCentre and ThinkPad brands. The news is likely to be made public later this month. Skype declined to comment for this story. Nevertheless, we have the skinny.

The deal ensures that Skype clients would be preloaded onto 13 million new devices that will be sold by Lenovo over the next 24 months. As part of the deal, the Skype icon will be featured in the start menu of Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. Owners of these devices can install and sign up for Skype without downloading the software. What is more interesting is that ThinkPad and its sister ThinkCentre are targeted at business professionals.

In a recent conversation, Skype CEO Josh Silverman told me how critical it is for Skype to make a successful and strong push into the enterprise. The Internet telephone service has become a much-used tool for businesspeople. I suspect Skype will be executing more such deals with other PC and netbook makers as it looks to expand its footprint. More than 480 million people are currently signed up for Skype, the company says.