The world’s biggest PC maker will pre-install SweetLabs’ Pokki software, which provides a replacement for the dearly departed Windows Start menu.
The computers bundled with Pokki will begin to hit stores in the next several weeks, starting with English-speaking countries, and eventually to all of the computers that the Chinese computer giant sells globally, said Chester Ng, the co-founder and chief marketing officer at SweetLabs.
SweetLabs has been distributing the software on its own through its website, and more than 3 million Windows 8 users have downloaded it. The average user opens it 10 times a day, Ng said. The software also includes an app store, which competes with Microsoft’s Windows Store.
SweetLabs scrabbled to develop an alternative when details started leaking out before the release of Windows 8 that Microsoft might scrap the iconic Start button and menu. The startup, which is backed by Intel Capital and Google Ventures, was ready to release Pokki when Windows 8 went on sale in October.
Ng was approached by representatives from Lenovo about working together after a speech he gave at an Intel Capital conference. SweetLabs is now in talks with other computer makers on similar deals, he said.
In addition to easing customers’ transition to Windows 8, Lenovo may have another incentive for using Pokki: cold, hard cash. Zynga and other app vendors pay for prominent placement in the app store, and the startup will share the wealth with Lenovo, Ng said. “We make the user experience better and help them make more money,” he said.